Expansion Review · Two-Player Only

Expansion Review – Bushido: Rising Rage

What it Adds

The Rising Rage expansion for Bushido adds three things: more weapon cards, more technique cards, and some green Rage dice. Having more weapons adds interesting variety to the game, taking you from 6 to 10 weapons. In addition, it alters the weapon selection method for the game – instead of choosing from any of the 6 weapons, you shuffle the 10 weapons and draw three, picking one of those to be your weapon for the game. More technique cards is absolutely wonderful, enhancing the variety that can appear and adding in more ways to gain those nice green dice. And those 5 green dice are really cool, because they have a new side that earns you a Rage token. Not only that, these dice have every symbol except the Torii on them, making it so you can potentially do anything with that die. Beyond the change to weapon selection in the Arm phase, this expansion only adds content into an already solid game.

My Thoughts

Bushido’s first expansion, Rising Rage, provides the exact content I want to see in an initial expansion: more of what makes the base game great without altering things in a radical way. Yes, it adds in a new type of dice to roll, but those have only one new side and it is a very intuitive addition for that new side. And sure, it changes up the Arm phase of the game by letting you choose from 3 random weapons, but I like that limitation. It means you’ll want to Train (draft) with those weapon choices in mind and see what you can effectively build around with those 5 cards. And the most important thing was adding even more variety into that Technique deck.

There are few expansions that I would claim are must-have, but this is right up with the first Mystic Vale expansion as being a great add-on purchase that you could use from the very first game. I’ll never play a game of Bushido without the expansion, because it only enhances the experience instead of altering things completely (like some expansions are wont to do). Some may bemoan the diluting of the Technique deck, but it makes the gameplay better because you cannot bank on drafting the same cards every single game when you discover a working strategy.

So I’ll end it with this: if you are considering picking up Bushido, I would recommend getting this at the same time. Even if you don’t integrate the cards from the first play, you will find that the contents in this box are easy to incorporate into the game. And everything in here, except the weapon cards, are marked to make it easy to separate them back out if you want to keep the items separate. All in all, I am excited to see what the second expansion for Bushido, if one gets produced, will have in store for this excellent game.

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Review for Two · Two-Player Only

Review for Two: Bushido

Thank you for checking review #112 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: I was provided a copy of the game for an upcoming event I am running at a local convention (Cardboard Caucus, October 25-27 in Des Moines, IA) but upon playing it I had to bump it up enough to get a review.

An overview of Bushido

Bushido is a board game designed by Pedro Mendoza that is published by Grey Fox Games. The box state it plays 2 players and has a playtime of 20-30 minutes.

Bushido is a game of dueling martial artists, testing their training against one another. One shall prevail and prove their techniques superior. The other will return to studying until they are strong enough to win.

Players begin with a card draft which represent the training of their fighters.

After training players play a series of round wherein they play technique cards from their hands, or change their guards, in order to create a pool of combat dice which they hope to use to strike their opponent or defend their attacks.

In this game damage escalates quickly so players must be able to block, evade, and strike simultaneously to try and keep the momentum of the encounter in their favor.

The game ends when one warrior has bested the other.

My Thoughts

 For a game involving 4+ dice being rolled most turns, this game feels like you make a lot of meaningful decisions throughout. The opening two phases of the game, each of which only happens once, might seem like the one area where you make all of the choices available and that randomness should take over from there. But it honestly never feels that way. Sure, there are turns where randomness swings things in unexpected ways, but those are usually the exception rather than the rule. Most turns have a surprising balance between luck and tactical planning. Knowing when to play each card, when to boost card effects or use tokens, and when to change your Guard are all critical decisions that can strongly impact the game.

 For a game with symmetric beginnings (each player has the same life total and same pool of weapons), Bushido is surprisingly asymmetric. This all comes from the Technique cards which players draft at the start of the game. These techniques help to mold the capabilities of the player, providing specific abilities they can access as well as determining a key portion of their dice pool. Five cards can’t possibly make a big difference, right? Wrong. They change everything. A game of Bushido could feasibly be won or lost from the start based on how the drafting goes. Being able to choose from a pool of 4 cards each drafting turn is excellent, providing a reasonable number of options without being overwhelming. And when you see how many cards aren’t even revealed each game, you’ll understand just how much replay value is in here…because no two matches are going to play out the exact same.

 Another key consideration that comes during the Training phase involves the different schools that the techniques belong to. Diversifying might give you a balanced approach to your cards, but it also has some limitations. Specializing in a school will allow you to Boost an attack by playing multiple cards from the same school, with each additional card used adding 1 Attack die to the pool. Which doesn’t sound like much until you see enough turns where 1 more damage could have been crippling to your opponent – and extra attack dice mean extra chances to roll the lucrative Torii symbol (more on that to come).

 It seems odd that you choose one weapon and that is the only one you use for the entire game. But it works brilliantly, and I can’t imagine the game functioning otherwise. Most duels between two fighters are done without a constant change of weapons, just differing tactics. And that really comes through in Bushido. The fact that each weapon functions with a differing effect, not only from weapon-to-weapon but based on your Guard, is remarkably clever and makes things interesting.

 There are three different dice, each with custom face distribution. If you want to deal damage, you want to roll red dice and, as a second option, gray dice. But if you’re rolling a blue…well, you can’t hit anyone with that. On the other hand, if you need to avoid damage you want to roll a ton of blue dice, maybe some gray…but red have no possibility for dodging an attack. They could have just made all dice balanced and one color, only varying the number rolled from the Techniques. Or made it so some faces are shown more than once but still contain every possibility on every die. But I like the decision here because it makes the drafting of cards, and the flowing between Guards, all that more important.

 The Guard system is simple yet brilliant. Your guard determines two things: the dice you add to your pool each turn and which effect on your weapon is active. But you cannot simply remain in the same guard all game unless the game is REALLY short. Why? Because each turn begins with a choice: play a Technique card or change your Guard. And if you cannot play a Technique card, you MUST change your Guard – which then lets you pick up your used Techniques. The Guard, as much as anything in the game, dictates the tempo on each side. Odds are someone in High Guard will be doing more damage because they roll two red dice. Most warriors in Low Guard are doing minimal damage because they are rolling a gray and a blue die – meaning only 1 of the 12 sides rolled from the Guard portion of the pool has a hit on it. Anticipating when to change your own Guard, and what your opponent is going to choose, is one of the key things in the game.

 One of the most exciting aspects comes on the Attack Dice. There is a Torii symbol on there, giving the player an option with each of these dice: to Focus or to Strike. Focusing will gain the player a Torii token which can be used later to reroll their choice of dice once (during their turn). Striking will allow the player to reroll that Torii die, plus one more red Attack die from the pool. Which means a player could potentially go from rolling 1-2 Attack die and end up rolling 7-10 of them on a lucky turn. It adds extra tension and excitement every time it happens – even if one side dreads seeing the chain of Torii unfolding on the table.

 There are only a few tokens, but they interact in a nice way. Tokens you gain go to a holding area, meaning you cannot use them this turn. At the end of the turn – after resolving die rolls and taking damage – they will shift to your pool. Rage tokens can be discarded prior to your roll to roll an extra red Attack die. Armor tokens can be discarded to reduce a hit on your hit track. And Torii tokens are discarded to reroll dice. There is no limit on the Rage tokens, but the weapon you choose determines how many slots you have for Armor/Torii tokens (from 2-4 slots) which means you cannot just load up on Armor and then go on the offensive.

 It feels like I’m gushing at this point, but really Bushido is that darn good. And one of the coolest parts – which I struggled to wrap my head around from the rules – was that my attack on this turn is registered onto your hit track, and so then on your turn you are trying to not only deal me hits, but also to get enough Dodges or use enough Armor to reduce the hit track on your board so you take less damage. The state of that hit track often encourages you to choose certain Technique cards to play, as you don’t want to roll all red dice if you’re sitting at 6 on the Hit Track. Because that hit track deals escalating damage, with 1 damage at 1 hit but 3 damage at 2 hits. And 6 damage at 3 hits. And 10 damage at 4 hits. Making 5-10 hits all instant death results. This is another part of the beautiful ebb and flow of Bushido, and part of what makes it memorable among other games out there.

 At the end of the day there is still a lot of dice rolling going on in the game, and if that bothers you then you still might have issues with Bushido. I imagine my wife wouldn’t find much joy in the game, even if the dice never once impacted her in a negative way, just because there is that random chance involved every single turn.

 The real issue here is direct damage. So much of this game is about trying to do more than your opponent can mitigate, but direct damage can ignore that and makes it so your opponent cannot even have a chance to avoid the damage. Because these effects are rare, of one side has them and can trigger it a few times in the game, that can be a significant advantage. I like the direct damage possibility in here, as it can help speed up the game, but at the same time it really stinks if you’re on the receiving end of it and have no answer of your own.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes you receive a game and it sits on the shelf waiting patiently for its turn to get played. More often a game might get that first play and sit patiently in line for it to get back into rotation for more plays in order to review the game. Bushido was not that sort of game. With simple rules to dive into, quick gameplay with a high level of interaction, and an amazing amount of fun in the box – Bushido is exactly the sort of game that I can get excited about. And the rapidity in which it hit the table, and the amount of enjoyment this game provided – well, neither of those were completely expected. Sure, I thought this would be a fun little 2-player dueling game. I expected it to be high on luck with a splash of strategy and tactics into the mix. And yes, there is certainly a level of luck in the game. But there is also a surprising amount of control you feel in the game, as though the decision you are making still matter regardless of dice doing what dice tend to do.

A lot of that has to do with the opening two segments of the game, where you are drafting your Techniques and choosing your Weapon for the game. There is a surprising amount of change that happens based upon what these six cards are for each player, and you get the opportunity to know and plan for both what you have on your side but also what your opponent possesses and can do. If they have one or two big attack cards, you’re probably going to try and save your best defensive card for after one of those attacks in order to minimize the damage taken. It is a tug of war affair between two duelists that, surprisingly, imitates the ebb and flow feel of what I expect such a duel would be like: impressive attacks that, to an ordinary foe, would render them helpless but are expertly avoided or minimized. Rinse and repeat.

Because of the dice factor, there is a chance that some games will run too long (either from poor attack rolls or stellar defense rolls) or will go to short (like the opening attack exploding through every attack die in the pool), most of the time it will be down to an exchange of 1-3 HP every few turns. When you are looking as 12 health, with no healing methods, that means most games are going to average into a length of time that, for Bushido, feels about right. While the dice rolling will likely prevent it from becoming my absolute favorite 2-player dueling game, it is definitely one of my favorites already. I’ve really enjoyed the game, and when it gets to the table I find myself wanting to play it several times in an evening.

At the end of the day, what more can you ask for out of a game like this? I wholeheartedly recommend Bushido, even to the dice averse, because it rarely feels like the dice have greatly impacted the outcome. Can it spoil the occasional turn? Absolutely. But rarely the entire match.

Review for One · Solo Gaming

Review for One: Chai

Thank you for checking review #111 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: This review and photos based upon a prototype version of the game. Final quality and components will vary from those in final production.

An overview of Chai

Chai is a board game designed by Dan and Connie Kazmaier that is published by Deep Aqua Games. The box state it plays 1-5 players and has a playtime of 20-60 minutes.

In Chai, you will step into the shoes of a tea merchant, combining tea flavours to make a perfect blend. Specializing in either rooibos, green, oolong, black or white tea, you will buy and collect ingredients to fulfill your customers’ orders.

As a tea merchant, each turn you will do one of the following:
Visit the Market – The player immediately receives a gold coin and selects a tea flavour tile (mint, jasmine, lemon, ginger, berries, and lavender), adding to their tea box. If the flavour tile is touching tiles of the same type these tiles are also taken. Payment (gold, silver, or a copper coin) is placed in the money pouch corresponding to the furthest-right column the tiles were in. Players cannot have more than 12 flavour tiles in their tea box at any time.
Select Additives – Tea additive cards (milk, sugar, honey, vanilla, and chai spices) are also needed to complete most orders. A player may conduct two actions in the additive area: selecting all of the additive cards of one type (with new cards drawn after the first action), resetting the visible cards, or drawing a card from the additive deck. Players cannot have more than 6 additive cards in their tea box at any time.
Reserve a Customer – A player may also reserve a customer card from the customer pool from the visible cards or draw deck. If drawing a visible card, a new card is immediately drawn faceup into the customer pool to replace the card taken. A player cannot have more than 3 unfulfilled customer cards at any time in their tea box. If a player has more than 3 cards, a card is discarded and placed faceup in the customer pool with a copper coin from the money pouch placed on top.
At the end of each turn, a player may complete a tea order from one customer card in their hand or visible in the customer pool. A base tea token, tea flavours and additives shown on the card are needed ingredients, and placed in an empty tea cup. The player flips over a tip and receives a coin bonus, moving the thermometer round tracker up one notch if all cups are filled.

The game ends when five rounds of cups have been fulfilled. When the final order is completed, other players complete their last turn so that each player has played the same number of turns.
To score, players add up their victory points from fulfilled customer orders, and add their leftover money to this total. In 3-5 player games, additional points are awarded to the player(s) who fulfilled the most orders and most diverse tea recipes. Award ties are friendly with each winner receiving 5 points.

The player with the most victory points (from customer orders, money, and awards) wins the game as best tea merchant! In the case of a tie, the person with the least number of fulfilled customer cards wins. If still tied, the person with the least amount of money wins. If that does not break a tie, the victory is shared.

—description from the publisher

My Thoughts

 The first thing I noticed, even as a prototype, were the colorful and exciting components. I love the feel of the tiles, and I know that the final production ones are going to be even better. This game is great to look at and to feel as you’re moving things around. I question whether they needed to have such large cards (I think tarot sized?) but it does help make the artwork stand out. The only real issue is that the bag is too small for the tiles to all fit into, something I assume will not be the case with the final copy.

 I really like the concept of the market and how the tiles slide as you make each purchase, and how getting them to line up well can make your purchases more efficient. This encourages careful manipulation of the market, and in a multiplayer setting even makes for some serious interaction as you try to capitalize on the moves other people make – or ensure you don’t leave the next player with a great and inexpensive combination of tiles. Although I do wish the Chaiwalla would impact this (and the circle of ingredients) during his turn.

 The Chaiwalla is what makes the solo game interesting (more on the solo game itself later). All he does is take a card from the market after your turn. This means over the course of 10 turns in a solo game, you’re opponent has 10 scoring cards and, usually, you will have at least 2-3 fewer than that. Which is why it is a good thing he takes the lowest value of the three cards showing – which can be as low as 4 or as large as 13 in unusual circumstances. This creates a lot of tension as a player, because you need to figure out a way to score a card most turns, as well as consider how taking card X might impact what the Chaiwalla takes. Sure, you might be able to score that 5 or 6-point card this turn…but what if the other two cards are a 10 and an 11 and then a 9-12 flips out? Suddenly you LOST points that turn, essentially, by taking that small card. But if it flips out a 4, you’re further ahead. This is the point where the game in a solo play is at its most interesting.

 The rules of this game are really simple and the game is straight-forward in terms of gameplay. This is one that is easy to open and learn the day you get it, and it is going to be really easy to teach to other players. The way the solo rules are done are mostly intuitive as well, although I was confused enough to play without the Chaiwalla in my first play since it was listed as a separate thing from the solo rules. And maybe it is intended to have a standard solo beat-your-own-score meditative version as well as a try-to-beat-the-Chaiwalla variant in there. For me, only one of those versions would see repeat plays, especially since adding the Chaiwalla literally only does one additional thing each turn.

 Tying in with the above, each turn has three actions to choose from and you only get to execute one: go to the market to buy tea flavor tiles, select some additives from the additive wheel, or reserve a customer from the display and do one of three special action cards. Regardless of which you choose, you can always serve a customer at the end of your turn if you have the correct items to do so – but you can only serve one customer.

 Mixing in the entire deck of customers makes things interesting as you play. Most customers will require you to PAY a coin when serving them (and then you’ll likely get at least that back in a tip). Which makes it seem insignificant until you are in a spot where you need exactly X to buy those tiles you need to serve a customer, and X is exactly what you have for cash. Meaning you can buy those tiles but you can’t serve said customer this turn. However, if the customer is your color then you don’t have to pay that valuable coin! A small detail, but it adds a nice touch to the planning in this game.

 The special action cards are nice in theory. After all, it makes reserving a customer an action that doesn’t completely waste your turn. However, at least in a solo game, I find I rarely should use this action as it is almost always better to hit the market or grab some additives. Maybe I’m still learning the strategies for the solo game, or just haven’t had the right action out under the right circumstances. But so far this action of the three is the “forgettable” action – usually reserved only if there is a card I really want to make sure I can serve on a future turn and the Chaiwalla might take otherwise (or in the rare case that all three cards showing are high and I can find no way to serve any of them this turn, therefore this is the only way to hopefully get a lower value out for the Chaiwalla to take)

 The solo game without the Chaiwalla is the standard fare of optimization. You get 10 turns to score as many points as you can, with the optimal level being 60+ points. And since each turn you get to do one of the three actions, you are really only racing to make sure you can average 6 points per turn (which isn’t quite as easy as it sounds some games!). Without the Chaiwalla, the customer lineup can become stagnant with a bunch of cards that are either too cheap to be worth the turn or too expensive to fulfill without dedicated effort – something the market itself can suffer from with only one player taking tiles.

Final Thoughts

I need to apologize to the designers of Chai. They sent me this prototype about a month after their Kickstarter campaign ended, and I did play it once shortly after it arrived. In the midst of the chaos that followed, the blue box this game was packaged in failed to stand out on the shelf. So I forgot what was actually in the box for months, and it was only about a week ago when I realized this game was in there – after opening the box to see what this mysterious game was on my shelf. Because based on the box, it was a game I would have no reason to own.

And so I dutifully got this back to the table a few times. I remembered back to my first play and how unimpressed I was with that initial play. Well, it was because I misunderstood the solitaire experience, not using the Chaiwalla. And so it became a “score as much as you can in 10 turns” game, which is always a disappointment in a solo game. But this time, well, the Chaiwalla was implemented properly. Yes, there is still a beat-your-own-score approach in there but now there is an opponent to defeat as well who removes a card every turn (the lowest value). And holy cow did this open things up in a good way.

Sure, some turns are simple. I should do anything but take that 4-point order card out there because I want him to score only 4 points this turn. Because he is nabbing 10 cards over the course of the game, he’s going to get a lot of points. Which is why you might think twice when the time comes about taking an order card. Maybe you can fulfill that 8-point card this turn, but the other two showing are 11 and 12 points each. Odds are the next card to flip out will be lower than those, but what if it is another 12? Suddenly he’s getting 11 points, whereas you could ensure he only scores 8 this turn by doing something different.

And let me tell you, the worst turns are when you cannot fulfill an order. Because you know he’s gaining ground, because he needs a smaller average to score well with 10 cards versus the 7-8 you might end with. This tension right here is what made this go from a forgettable solo experience and turn it into something really fun. Because every decision you make could potentially set him up for more points, either during this round or the next round. Sometimes getting greedy will pay off, and other times you’re going to be wishing you had been a little more conservative. And this is where reserving cards can really come in handy, because you can set up to score that card later with no risk (during that turn) of boosting the Chaiwalla’s score.

All in all this game was quite enjoyable, far more than the first impression it left upon me. As someone who enjoys drinking tea, but never does it often enough to really call it a habit, I was curious about the game. Like many games, this one is a great game with others at the table. But if you are one who would pick it up with the intention of playing with a spouse or game group, as well as playing it solo, the experience from the latter will prove better than you’d expect upon reading the rules. It isn’t marketing itself as a heavy thinker of a game, but there are plenty of tense and interesting decisions packed into this vibrant package. And while you’re letting this review steep, don’t miss out on a chance to get the game still at Kickstarter pricing.

Review for Two

Review for Two – Omen: Heir to the Dunes

Thank you for checking review #110 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: This review and photos based upon the print and play files listed on BGG.

An overview of Omen: Heir to the Dunes

Omen: Heir to the Dunes is a board game designed by John Clowdus that is published by Kolossal Games. The box state it plays 2 players and has a playtime of 30 minutes.

An ancient conflict is arising from the burning sands of Egypt. The heirs of Anubis and Horus gather followers and initiates for the war to come. Which side will prevail and gain dominion over the other: light or darkness?
Omen: Heir to the Dunes is the latest chapter in the Omen Saga . This standalone expansion is the single largest expansion since Omen: A Reign of War. It not only includes all new unit cards and reward tiles compatible with all games in the Saga, but also introduces factions and an all-new path to victory in the form of structures.

Omen: Heir to the Dunes

– A fast paced, head to head strategy card game set in the burning sands of ancient Egypt.
– Pledge your loyalty to Anubis or Horus and command your forces as you choose from multiple paths to victory.
– Quick to learn and endlessly expandable with additional games from the Omen Saga.

My Thoughts

 One of the nicest additions to this version of Omen is having the two Gods, and each player having the favor of one of those Gods. This adds a few elements that really help this version to stand out: a chance to draw a free card at the start of your turn, reducing the cost of your first aligned unit, boosting your neutral units when your god is favored, and the flipping of that favor card are all really awesome and interesting aspects of this game. They add asymmetric player status at the start of the game. While you’re still drawing from the same pool of units, suddenly there are units that help you more or, if you play them, could help your opponent in small ways. This enhances the strategic planning and adds interesting, tense decisions.

 The buildings are a more interesting approach than I found the feats to be in the base game. Certain units can be discarded for their build ability in order to take cards from the deck equal to their offering value and put those under a building. Once you start one building, though, you cannot place units under a different one until that building is complete. Not only that, but the building doesn’t flip when finished until the start of your turn, meaning toward the end you need to make sure it’ll be your turn again. There are a lot of points under the more expensive buildings, and these structures form a game-end condition much like the feats did.

 The rest of this game is pretty darn close to what the base game (A Reign of War) of Omen provided, which is a strength because that game system is so solid. Sometimes there is pressure to get innovative in ways that ultimately are poor decisions for the game as a whole. However, here it is a great thing because the core game of Omen is really, really good. Every strong point listed in my review of Omen: A Reign of War can be listed here.

 This version of the game has a solo mode in the rules. I haven’t played it yet, but from my initial impression after reading those rules it seems like it should provide a solid, fun experience. I can’t wait to try it out in the future, but even if that falls completely flat you can be reassured that the 2-player experience is excellent.

 This game seems like it would be difficult to gel well when mixed with other versions of Omen. And the rules tend to confirm that, suggesting adding just a handful of other units into the mix with this game rather than a full-blown combination of everything together. All of the things above which make this version stand out from the base game are also reasons why this doesn’t really play well with others. Can it be combined? Absolutely. Should it be combined? Maybe not.

Final Thoughts

Omen: Heir to the Dunes takes the base game system of Omen: A Reign of War and does some interesting things to make a unique and fresh experience. After our first play of the game, my friend and I started talking about what this did differently and comparing the two games and trying to decide if we liked one version over the other – essentially, asking whether we would need both in a collection or could stick to just having one or the other. And we both really enjoyed this experience and felt it did enough to deliver an experience that could co-exist in a collection. So even if you’re planning on being a game purist, keeping this as a stand-alone game without any desire to intermix this with the base game, you’re going to enjoy what comes in this box.

This probably wouldn’t be the first Omen game I’d recommend picking up. I’d still start with A Reign of War because it gives you the core experience. But this version adds a few neat mechanics. I love building the structures over the course of the game, even though there are times when it means sacrificing your focus on winning battles in the cities. There are a ton of points that can be scored through those buildings, if you’re willing to push your luck on committing to their construction. If you can pull it off, there are plenty of points to be earned via this method.

We also played this for the first time before I received my Kolossal version of Omen, so this was our first introduction to some cards which have a Treasured keyword. Essentially that means you get a point at the end of the game if they are in your hand, and for 90% of the game it is just another card – until you realize the game could end at any moment and so suddenly you need to weigh whether that card will get you at least one point by being played or if you should try and hold onto it even if that means taking a suboptimal turn. And sometimes the answer is easy to determine, but other times it becomes a “if I get another turn after this, playing the card is the best thing to do because I can get X on my next turn, but if my opponent ends the game on their turn then I’m giving them an advantage in points”. And since this game, like A Reign of War, tends to have smaller end scores that 1 VP could be really critical in determining who wins the game. And I was SO glad this was in the base game now as well in the Kolossal version.

But the real star of this version of the game comes from the dueling Gods, with each player representing a different God. This opens up so many great aspects such as flipping a card at the start of each turn and getting to draw it if it is aligned with your God, having a Favor card that flips when any player brings out a card aligned to the God not currently favored, having your first unit aligned to your God being discounted, and boosting neutral units if your God is on its favored side. Suddenly this game is very assymmetrical in its approach, and you get tough decisions on whether you should play a card favored by the other God. You may need to play those cards in a different order than you’d like simply because you don’t want the opponent to get a nice swing in power going their way. This is the aspect that makes Heir to the Dunes stand out in all of the right ways, meriting a spot on the shelf and allowing it to be played on its own.

The Kickstarter campaign for this game will be coming up soon (I don’t know an official date)< and I wholeheartedly recommend backing. Omen has already proven itself to be an outstanding 2-player game, and this installment is worth picking up for returning players. And Kickstarters also tend to be the best time to get everything for a game at the lowest price possible – something I’d like to be able to do myself. Because the beauty of Omen isn’t just the great 2-player gameplay in the standalone boxes, but also the ability to mix and match cards across sets for modular experiences. That sort of variety and replayability is what I crave in games for my collection, but even as a standalone experience this one stands up to deliver a great package.

And this is all without even trying the solo mode in the rules yet…

Board Gaming · Review for Two · Two-Player Only

Review for Two – Omen: A Reign of War

Thank you for checking review #109 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

An overview of Omen: A Reign of War

Omen: A Reign of War is a board game designed by John Clowdus that is published by Kolossal Games. The box state it plays 2 players and has a playtime of 30 minutes.

You are a child of Zeus poised to conquer all of Greece, but first you must prove your worth to the gods, as there is another who contests your claim. To determine who shall rule, gods have devised a contest and lent their most powerful forces to both sides of the conflict.

Omen: Reign of War is a head-to-head strategic card game where you compete to gain the favor of the pantheon of gods, and prove that you are the rightful heir of Zeus. Powerful forces of antiquity and legend are at your command as you raze and pillage cities, strategically manage your resources, and eliminate your rival’s forces. Choose your battle strategy with rules for standard and draft play, and expand your war with other, fully compatible, games from the ‘Omen Saga’!

Omen: Reign of War
– Head to Head demigod battles for supremacy of ancient Greece.
– Tactical battle card-game where every unit has its own unique abilities and uses.
– Definitive Omen Saga gaming experience and endlessly expandable.

My Thoughts

 The first phase of the game made me sit up and take notice right away. You can take 3 in any combination of cards from the top of the deck or coins to begin your turn – that’s standard enough. Coins are needed to play cards, and cards are needed in order to have any units to deploy into the three cities in order to earn victory points. Nice decision point, right? It gets better. If you take all coins or all cards here, you get an extra one. Suddenly you have an incentive to go all-in at the start of your turn. But if you have only 1 coin and 1 card, for instance, is that worth the all-in, or would you be better served to divide between the two? What is normally the least interesting step in a game (draw cards/gather resources) is suddenly a critical decision point each and every turn because you’re never going to feel like you have enough cards nor coins for most of the game.

 Unit deployment is simple, as you pay gold equal to the card’s cost and place it from your hand into one of the three city locations. You’re trying to gain the majority of power in a city, to gain a nice 2 VP token upon the resolution of that city. And there are a delightful variety of units: Soldier units are placed into a city and usually have an effect that triggers upon deployment. After that they are essentially their stat line, providing power as you try to trigger the city into a war-torn state. Beasts are fun, because you can deploy them into a city – they usually have a LOT of power – or pay and discard them for the printed effect on the card. And let me tell you, it isn’t always easy to determine which is the better approach during the game. Oracle units are interesting ones because they don’t add much to your overall power in a city, but they add an effect that will trigger every single turn so long as they remain in play. Heroes have abilities that can be used outside of your Surge (deployment) step of the game, but they also contain a Treasured keyword that gives you 1 VP if they are in your hand at the end of the game. And Spirit units have two options under their Deploy ability, and you choose one when playing them to a city – or you can pay their Invoke cost and discard them to use both abilities.

 Some units have the Colossal keyword on them, which is a cool thing in the game. Essentially it means that the card counts as two units – and Kolossal Games has provided tokens you can put on a card to help remind you that a unit is Colossal. This means you can up the unit count with fewer cards, and they usually have some nice power level to them. However, once a war-torned city resolves the victor can only keep one unit in that city. Which means if you win with a Colossal unit on your side, it is for sure hitting the discard pile. On the other hand, if you lose a city you can keep two units, meaning you could keep that Colossal unit (and nothing else) on your side, giving you a strong start to win that city on your turn since you’re staying close to triggering the city again.

 The offering step in the game is another great spot, because each card has a gold value, a combat value, and an offering value. And while you may be tempted to play the cards for their attack value in order to win cities, or to trigger their effects, you could also discard a card during this step on your turn to take either gold or cards in the card’s offering value. Those weak Oracles? Yep, they have pretty solid offering values. And in a game with such tight economy of cards and coins each turn, sometimes the best play is to toss that good card so you can do something of value on your next turn.

 I love the change by Kolossal Games to make the city cards into tiles. Each of the three cities has four tiles randomly placed on them, face-down. When you win a battle in a city, you get the top tile – if two cities are empty of tiles is one of the end game triggers. In the older version it was a card that went to your hand and there was no hand limit. Here there is a hand limit of 5, but these don’t clog your hand. Rather they are worth 2 VP at the end of the game…but they also have a wonderful ability on the other side and you can use one of those on your turn – but once a tile is used it can no longer be used for that ability again. Not only that, but the tile remains flipped over and now that 2 VP tile is worth just 1 VP at the end of the game. In a game where scores are often under 20 (my experience so far), that extra point can be absolutely critical.

 There are six feat cards a player begins with on their side – also not in their hand – with an objective for the player to try and meet. Once you are able to meet that objective, then you can flip that card over during your Feats phase of the game and it scores you 2 VP. If a player flips five of their six feats, that is the other end-game trigger. I like this system, especially since there are indirect ways you can react to an opponent making progress on some of them.

 The game comes with several easy-to-use variants in the rules. Not only that, but it can be mixed-and-matched with other expansions for the game. That could be argued as a negative point almost, because you’re not going to want to stop with just the base game. I know I won’t be, because this is a really, really good game. One of the best 2-player only games I have played.

 So much of the game revolves around the city spaces and getting them into a war-torn status. This part reminds me of Haven, another 2-player game I absolutely love, in that you’re deploying units on your sides until a threshold is met. Typically until there are either 5 units total in that city, or 3 units on a single side. The key difference is that this will trigger at the end of the current turn – whereas in Haven it would be at the end of the opponent’s next turn. I’m a little disappointed, because it means you have no chance to counter what your opponent did on their turn if they triggered the war-torn city – and why wouldn’t they unless they would win it? This means you need to try and think ahead, seeing what area they are vying for and decide to either try and drop units there to win it first, or place your strong units in another city spot.

Final Thoughts

When you immerse yourself in the 2-player gaming circles there are games you inevitably hear mentioned time and again as titles to check out. Many of them are absolutely worth trying out, and a select few of them are so incredibly good that you have to instantly play it more times, even if you had other plans for the games you would play that evening. Omen: A Reign of War was one of those games I had always heard mentioned but brushed it aside as a game I’d get back to eventually. Then last year Kolossal Games launched a Kickstarter to republish the game under their lineup, and it placed the game back on my radar even though I didn’t have the ability to back it on Kickstarter at the time. And so it sat in my wishlist until I saw a really good price – and one came for the 2nd Edition of the game with its first expansion during a BGG Auction. I bid on it, won the auction, and was delighted when the box arrived. I knew just the friend to play it with, and took a handful of 2-player titles I wanted to try out that night.

We opened the evening with Omen – his choice, based on the aesthetic of the box – and what followed was a fantastic game. Followed immediately by another play of the game. That night I left knowing I wanted to get the newer edition, and I left this one in his possession. Two weeks later we got back together for another gaming night and he told me about all the people he had taught it to in those two weeks, and we played it again that night. Ever since it has been pulled out every time we get together – even if it hasn’t always hit the table to get played – and that will continue into the foreseeable future. Why? Because this game is really, really fun. I had no regret taking birthday funds and picking up a copy of the newest version of the base game, either, so now we both have a version of Omen.

Spolier alert: The upcoming Heir to the Dunes box is really good, too – more on that in a week or two!

Omen: Reign of War has everything I look for in a 2-player game experience: tight gameplay, simple ruleset, engaging mechanics, tense decisions, strong player interaction, fast setup. It checks every box on the list for me, and has the added benefit of alternative game modes (such as drafting – I love drafting!) that I intend to explore in greater depth. It has the ability to add in small expansions and combine the larger boxes in ways to make unique experiences every time. But even if you only pick up the base game, a $30.00 entry point, you’ll have a damn good game on your hands that will get played many times before it runs a risk of getting stale.

Review for One · Solo Gaming · Spring of Solitaire 2019

Review for One: Pigment

Thank you for checking review #108 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: A copy of the game was provided in exchange for an honest review.

An overview of Pigment

Pigment is a board game designed by Michael Epstein that is published by Copper Frog Games. The box state it plays 1-3 players and has a playtime of 15-20 minutes.

You are Master Painters of the Renaissance! …Or you would be, if you had some paints!

Send your two Apprentices to gather and trade Pigments in the crowded and ever-evolving Bazaar for your works. Each Bazaar Card has two useful effects to choose from, but each Apprentice can only use one each turn.

Fetch Subjects to paint with your Pigments, and receive powerful Premier Piece Effects from the completed works.

Fill your gallery first to win!

~

Pigment is a fast, minimalist worker placement game for 1-3 players from Copper Frog Games LLC.

My Thoughts

 There simply aren’t many worker placement games out there with such a small footprint, portable design, and fast gameplay. This checks three very important boxes that helps the game to stand out in a crowded game, and worker placement, market today. Add in some quality components and delightful artwork, and this is a game that is always pleasant to pull out for a quick game or two.

 The solo opponent for the game is easy to navigate, as you simply move the worker one painting over, pull three cubes from the bag, and then check if he can paint that current painting he is on. It is a really simple and streamlined process (although not without questions, as highlighted in a later point).

 Pigment succeeds at what it sets out to accomplish: distill a 60-90 minute worker placement game down into a 10-15 minute game. There are different action spaces (with a conveyor belt shifting of spaces!), resources to generate and turn in for points, and special powers to be gained from your paintings. If you’ve ever wanted to grab _____ worker placement game off the shelf to play but didn’t have the time, this game deserves to be in your collection because it emulates a much larger experience, although distilled down a little bit due to size/component limitations.

 I wish there was more variety in the game. I love the action spaces changing as the game progresses, but the paintings themselves never change. Sure, the order in which they appear will change, but you’re ultimately gaining three types of resources to turn in for paintings and the first to obtain five paintings will win. Give my asymmetric player powers that let you break the game’s rules once per game. Give me more painting cards so I can’t know that eventually I’ll see a RRYY painting to purchase and thus keep those components set aside. Give me secret scoring objectives, such as 1 point for every 2 Red cubes in my supply at the end of the game.The base game is a solid game as it is, but it’ll get repetitive quickly because it never has variation beyond the order in which things appear.

 There is a little room for uncertainty in how the solo opponent operates. Namely, what happens when a painting is bought. Does the new painting just replace it where it was at? Or do all paintings shift? Can you buy the painting they are on? If the paintings shift, does the AI worker move with that painting or stay on the “position” they are at? Are cubes spent returned to the bag? If so, when? I’ve always played that the paintings stay where they are, and that I refill the cubes in the bag before the AI turn – but the game could be a little different if either of those are changed.

 The game’s solo system is extremely random. I’m all for some randomness in a game this short, but it never feels like I’m playing against an opponent in Pigment. Sure, it avoids the “beat your own high score” pitfall, but there is no real way to plan for the opponent nor does it interfere in any way with your own turns. And that is truly unfortunate, because even in a game like Pigment there is opportunity to have a blocking worker or two placed down on the board. A simple deck of 10-15 cards, each one depicting two space numbers on it (i.e. Position #1 and Position #4) would work. You flip the card, put a neutral worker on the first space listed on that card, take your first turn, flip the second card and place a neutral worker on the first space listed without a worker (or in the occasional case, both spaces may be occupied in which case the worker is not placed), and then place your second worker. It could maintain everything else it currently does and just this addition would make the solo experience more interesting because then you cannot count on an ideal turn every turn based on the 5 available spaces and 3 paintings shown. Or it could eliminate the moving worker on the paintings altogether and have some of those cards show a painting position at the top and the first thing you check is if they have the cubes to paint said painting and, if so, they go to that space instead. Or eliminate resource gain from the AI and seed a few paint painting cards in there and, when those appear, they just get said painting. Put five of those into the deck, having one shuffled in as one of the bottom three cards of the deck so you’ll always know when the end is near for the AI but never 100% certain when it could end while preventing the random chance of all five being near the top of the deck. There is potential here for an excellent solo system. Maybe I should design it, since i have these ideas fluttering in my mind. But as it stands, this is far too random to feel like a satisfying solo experience overall. Enjoyable? Sure. But not satisfying in the same way that triumphing over an opponent would be.

Final Thoughts

Pigment first caught my eye last year at Gen Con as I was wandering through the hordes of booths in my first ever convention. It was priced reasonably, worker placement, and boasted a small play time. At the time I wasn’t ready to make my select few purchases of the convention, and by the time I made said purchases I had forgotten about Pigment. Yet it resurfaced onto my radar as I was preparing for my Spring of Solitaire extravaganza.

The solitaire mode in this game is pretty high in randomness. You can see the pattern in which the AI player will be moving and what paints they will need to make said painting on their turn, but you have no real way of stopping them from making that painting. And that is unfortunate, because everything else about this little game is enjoyable as a solo experience. But to be able to go from losing with just reaching my 3rd painting in one game (they kept pulling the cubes they needed) to winning by a very comfortable margin in the next game (they didn’t pull the cubes they needed) isn’t a reflection of any increased skill on my end. But the fact that he does not interfere with my play in any way, apart from possibly taking a painting. A more dynamic and interactive solo opponent would make this game far more likely to see repeat plays.

Outside of that, I really like everything else in this game. It is a small worker placement game with a tiny footprint, it has a changing set of worker placement spaces, your most recent painting provides beneficial powers (in a 2-3 player game), it has nice little meeples and great artwork, and a clever little system. It’ll never replace the bigger box worker placement games, but having a 10-15 minute game in that arena is a niche that is hard to find. And while I would love for the game to have more options in there, whether a greater variety of paintings or added scoring conditions, this still is one I’m happy to keep in my collection and pull out when I just need a small worker placement game that I can take along with me.

Review for One · Spring of Solitaire 2019

Review for One – Feudum: The Queen’s Army

Thank you for checking review #107 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: A copy of the game was provided in exchange for an honest review.

An overview of Feudum: The Queen’s Army

Feudum: The Queen’s Army is a board game expansion designed by Mark K. Swanson, JR Honeycutt, and Brian Neff that is published by Odd Bird Games. The box state it plays 1 players and has a playtime of 80 minutes.

Description from the publisher:

Oh Bullocks! The Queen’s tyranny is spreading into every corner of the kingdom. Her foot soldiers scour the countryside to hunt the behemoth—the bewitched king that was once her husband! Your small band of rebels will need sharp wits and a bit of luck to save the king and reclaim the land’s virtue, as well as your own.

The Queen’s Army is a solo variant expansion to Feudum. The game pits you against Queen Ann in an epic battle to score the most veneration points over 5 epochs.

First, her Majesty will ruthlessly target the bewitched King (The
Behemoth) in effort to diminish your fame. After the King is dead (or by the dawn of third epoch), she will mount her black horse to pursue your band of rebels with a vengeance.

The Queen plays the game with unlimited resources and no movement restrictions. Any actual resources she acquires along the way count as veneration points!

Can you thwart her quest for the King’s demise, while securing your own prestige? By the Sword of Leinad, you shall prevail!

Development Notes:

The elegantly crafted automa deck was developed in collaboration with J.R. Honeycutt (developer for Tesla vs Edison: Powering Up!) and Brian Neff. The expansion features an elegantly designed A.I. player that cleverly reacts to game conditions as well as keeping you guessing with unpredictable maneuvering.

Rounds are played just like the base game with alternating turns, round by round until each epoch is triggered. However, the Queen is less restrained by resource or route requirements making her a powerful force to reckon with!

My Thoughts

 The action selection aspect of this game is nice, and I love the added benefit of being able to have the actions be stronger under the right conditions. This makes planning ahead very important, and choosing the right actions for the round (and the order in which you execute them) matters even in a solo game (I assume it is just as critical with multiplayer experiences). Added into these layers are the ability to plan to take an action twice (using the proper card), taking 5 actions in the turn instead of 4 (by paying the right resource at the start of the round), or being able to take two actions in a row (again, by paying the right resource).

 Most of the actions in this game are relatively straight-forward to understand (with one glaring exception…and even that is simple in concept). Most of your time spent planning for your turn will be figuring out what to play to accomplish what you need to on your turn rather than trying to figure out what the card allows you to do.

 The same holds true with the AI decks. While I don’t necessarily see the need for five separate decks (yes, sometimes it allows them to do a fifth action but I would have preferred to see a single deck instead of five smaller ones), none of the actions they take – apart from guild – are hard to follow after a few times seeing them come up. I know Solosaurus bemoaned the “flowchart” of actions if they can’t do an action but, honestly, it is a negligible aspect of the gameplay experience.

 This is a game that rewards creating combos with your 4-5 actions in a turn. I imagine they are far more difficult to set up and execute in a game with more players, but the potential is still there. Being able to have a turn where your first action opens up the chance to score on your next action, which then enables you to do something on your third action which in turn allows you to score points on the fourth action – those are the kinds of turns I really enjoy. And, unfortunately, those are absolutely necessary to keep pace with the scoring machine that is the solo AI. But it sure does feel satisfying when a turn not only goes exactly as planned, but the execution of those works even better than expected.

 I enjoy the Epoch aspect of the game, with six different stacks of tiles. I like that one for sure is removed at the end of each round, although I wish it wasn’t randomly selected. It is a good design choice to allow only the current or previous Epoch marker that can be removed, and that a certain number of tiles must be depleted from that Epoch before the next one is triggered. And at first you might look at this and think you’re getting a minimum of 15 rounds, but there are other ways that those tiles get removed so really you’re going to be lucky to hit 10 rounds (and I have found 7 to be a fairly consistent number in solo play…that AI seems to pull tiles off there a LOT more than I can ever do).

 Which means you have about 28-40 actions to score as many points as you can. It sounds like a lot, but then you realize most actions which score require at least 1-2 actions to get into position to score those well. That aspect is one of the things I love about a Vital Lacerda design: your objectives to score are clear but require several scoreless steps to set them up effectively. And so of course I also enjoy that part of Feudum.

 The artwork and quality on the components in the game are excellent. This is a well-produced game, and you can tell a lot of love was poured into the little details on this game. I do wish the cubes were just a tad larger, but overall this game looks impressive on the table.

 The more I played the game the less I liked the long and skinny board. It eats up my entire table, which is a long table, and makes it so I can’t leave this one set up AND be able to play a game on the other half of the table with my wife. So that means I either need to be able to dedicate an entire block of time to playing Feudum from start to finish, or I need to sacrifice potentially playing games with my wife (at least on that table) until this game is completed. And for a game that regularly clocks in at about 150+ minutes for me so far, that makes it a real struggle to get back to the table often (and thus the delayed review). Give me a board that is double the width and things would be far better. Or make the guilds at each end their own board so I can set them up however is most convenient for my gaming situation. There is no way I could see this being played on a small, or even moderately-sized table.

 More on this to come throughout the final thoughts, but the Guilds in this game are that opaque mechanic which will present a hurdle to new gamers. I imagine this is not only the case for solo gamers – but it is something that any solo gamer will need to be able to overcome. That might be to resort to watching playthrough videos to see how the interactions work to get it all to sink in, or to internalize each of the three interactions that each of the six guilds can provide. On paper it all sounds simple, yet in the midst of the game this is where things slow down to a crawl at times. Especially when the AI is taking a guild action, because you need to look up what guild action she’s going to take and what in there she will do, and then see if that can be done, and the manipulate the things to execute the guild action. When people talk about fiddliness in games, I imagine this is what they mean: manipulating bits on a board for an effect. It is fun and exciting when you can pull something clever off on your turn, but it becomes a chore on their turn. And, well, I’ll just lead into these thoughts…

Final Thoughts

When I read the rules for Feudum, I found myself thinking it didn’t seem too bad. And as I started playing the game, most of the action cards and interactions were relatively straight-forward. By the end of that first play, I was echoing the sentiment that Edward from Heavy Cardboard expressed: I don’t want to have to teach this to a group of new players. 90% of what is going on in this game is relatively simple and approachable, but it is that final 10% – the guilds (both how they function and how to determine control) where this game becomes bogged down.

Feudum is an ambitious game project from a first-time designer. There are a ton of levers to pull for interactions within the guilds, and I have no doubt this is the brilliance in the game experience for most players. Unfortunately, when playing the game solitaire this never felt like the impressive push-pull system of vying for control that it should provide. And part of that, I feel, is probably because I haven’t seen this system function in its ideal situation: with a group of experienced players who know what they are doing and how to effectively position for its control. So far my only experiences have been in isolation as a solo gamer, and the guild system has failed to impress every time.

And it is unfortunate, because I think once I truly get that area of the game mastered on my end, this will turn into a far better solo experience. One that might still last too long and take up far too much table space, but one that does still provide a fun and engaging solitaire experience. And so far it still succeeds at delivering those things, but it falls into the faceless “game in a pile of games” category right now as a solo experience. I’ve never regretted playing the game, because I’ve had fun plays, but it has always dragged on longer than I wanted – and part of that is the fault of those guilds. Because every time I still need to reference exactly what happens in the guilds and what my options are. I’ve got the action selection down just fine, but nothing is worse than stopped because I need to consult the rulebook on how Guild X operates. Or worse yet, to figure out what the AI opponent is going to do within the guild…which almost always is bad news for me as a player but it takes time to unfold.

There are so many other great things going on in this game that I can forgive Feudum for this obstacle. I’m determined to master it, even if it means dedicating myself to just spending a few hours watching a playthrough or two to see it all in action. And maybe this aspect isn’t an issue for you – maybe it’ll click faster or, ideally, you’ve played it multiplayer and want to see how it all plays solitaire with the Queen’s Army expansion added into the mix. And ultimately, that is probably the best situation: play it with others a few times first and then dive into it solo. Then maybe your first few plays won’t be spent trying to muddle out exactly how everything interacts, what moves are worth vying for, and how to keep up with the AI as they run rampant and gain control (and by extension a boatload of VP) of the majority of the guilds on the board.

Every time I’ve played I have found myself far behind by the end of the 2nd Epoch, and never able to quite catch up before the end. Which is encouraging, if there are ways to catch up and I simply haven’t found an effective strategy yet (which I am sure I have not, because every game I’ve felt like a bull in a china shop in terms of my approach to gaining points). And every play has gotten a little shorter, although it still gets slowed as I reference the guild section (maybe I need a really good player aid…), meaning that hopefully I won’t always need 2-3 hours to play a solo experience in Feudum. 90 minutes would be that sweet spot I want to hit with a game like this, and I hope to get it there…eventually. This one won’t be a regular on my table due to the size and length, but when I want a longer, more involved game to play when I have a few hours to myself – this is definitely one I’ll keep around to pull off the shelf. But if you are looking to buy this ONLY to play it solo, I can’t say I’d recommend it just for that unless you have already played the game and know you enjoy it. But for those who might already own Feudum and are considering trying it solo, that little expansion adds in an AI opponent that is relatively easy to navigate most of the time and that will provide a good challenge.