One-Player Only · Review for One · Spring of Solitaire 2019

Review for One: D100 Dungeon

Thank you for checking review #102 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 review copy of the game was sent in exchange for an honest review.

An overview of D100 Dungeon

D100 Dungeon is a board game designed by Martin Knight that is self-published. The rules state it plays 1 players and has a playtime of 5-90 minutes.

Just a pencil, a few sheets of paper, 2 d10’s, a d6 and the manual are all you need to take a character on Dungeon Delving Adventure. Create a Characters and you are ready to start a new journey.

The game uses a series of tables and harks back to a cross over of a RPG and a choose your own adventure book. With quests and character development. You can pick this up and play as and when you have the free time.

Each quest is a trip to the dungeon, where you will have a specific goal. Whether you win or fail the quest your character is constantly developing and looting better equipment and more gold. AS you progress through the dungeon you map your progress and make notes so you can easily return back to a quest you have started next time you have some free time. This an ideal lunch break, train journey, flight filler that can help with any gamers withdraw.

Version 3 has updated rules and extra content, and you can find out how its changed here – http://martinknight39.wixsite.com/mk-games/d100dungeon and order here – https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/244214/D100-Dungeon

Version 1 and 2 are free to try out and can be downloaded from BGG here – https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/153784/d100-dungeon-game

—description from the designer

My Thoughts

 There is something deeply satisfying about taking a pencil to paper and mapping out the rooms as your adventure through a quest. I’m no great artist and never will be, but the rooms are easy enough to duplicate (closely enough). Fitting the information needed onto the map might be a challenge for those with large handwriting but I never found it to be a detraction to my experience. Being able to literally see the map grow as you explore reminds me of playing a game like the original Legend of Zelda where the screen shifts with each movement to a new area.

 Three dice are all you need beyond the book and a pencil. Well, mostly. Unless you plan to erase maps and character information constantly you will probably also want extra copies of those sheets as well. But the bottom line is there is so little that goes into playing the game to make it portable, fast to pull out, and easy to put away when you are done. This could easily be played on just about any hard surface, making even an airplane tray a possibility for playing D100 Dungeon.

 Within a few rounds of the game – definitely by the end of the first training quest – how a turn works, an encounter works, and what to reference when should all fall into place. There is a ton of information in the book, but most of it applies to providing an overview of the system, explaining special instances, etc. The vast majority of what you need is found on the helpful tables and references in the back of the book. I found myself having to dig for information a lot less the more I played the game, allowing me to settle into a comfortable groove that only would slow down if an exception popped up – or when an encounter lasted too long.

 There is a TON of variety in the book because there are 50 different quests of varying difficulty. Which means even if you wanted to play everything in the book once it would take quite some time to accomplish everything. Some of the quests are the standard kill monsters or loot X item, but there is still an interesting variety to be found inside the book. The game is obviously limited to what it can do by the content in the book and, yes, some of the quests might get a little same-y after a while. But for the pricepoint on this, you’ll get plenty of fun before it hits that point.

 Combat is relatively simple and straight-forward. One roll is made to see if you hit. If successful, a second roll is made to determine the hit location and damage. I love the use of location for the hit, as some areas reward with bonus damage and others suffer reduced damage. When the monster attacks they do the same pattern, and if they hit you then you can have equipment in the hit area absorb some of the damage – often at the cost of its durability. I really enjoy combat, even if it can draw out depending on dice rolls.

 I really like the system for the equipment, how you use them, and their durability. It makes so much more sense than an overall boost to your natural defense, because if I go in wearing a helmet then it shouldn’t help me if I’m being hit on my legs, etc. And while it can be a bummer to see the enemy roll time and again on a slot where you have no armor (and thus no decision on absorbing some damage), that just means you should try and pick that area of armor upin the market…if you’re lucky.

 Character creation and progression are some of the highlights of the game. You get to allocate stats and then, based on race and class, get boosts and penalties. There are ancillary skills that get boosts as well, which can help you succeed. Rolling a 10 or lower on a skill check lets you gain experience, working to boost that skill in the future. And as you get proficient, you’ll get to shade the star which essentially doubles your gains in that area going forward. All of this is outstanding and fun to do.

 There are a lot of tables to reference in the game, and you’ll constantly be flipping to one of them as you go through the game. Moving to a new room requires a roll for the next room, which you refer to a table to draw the correct room. Depending on the type rolled, you may then either need to roll for an encounter or for a geographical event. Once in the room, you can search it to see if you find anything of interest. If you are successful at that, you may be rolling on yet another table, such as to find which weapon was present. It is all an elaborate yet simple process, but it does require a lot of flipping pages in the book.

 Depending on the quest you are on, there may be a +/- to encounter rolls. Which is great in that it helps you to get level-appropriate encounters most of the time. However, when you need to Loot 3 Weapons, for instance, and those HAVE to come from killing monsters, then rolling at a -30 to your encounter kinda sucks. Why? Because the lowest encounters, which you will get the most often with that -30 penalty, do not have any chance at giving a weapon when you kill them. All this does is greatly increase the odds of rolling into an encounter that does nothing to assist your progress on the quest.

 You get a single character sheet in the book, along with one encounters sheet and a double-sided map to draw on. Obviously the intent would be to make copies of your own from this, but it would have been nice to have a few dozen blank ones to pull out of the book for those getting started. The good news is that even if you don’t have a copier, you can print these out on BGG. Which you will need to do if you want to play this game more than once session (or erase things a LOT).

 Let’s be honest: luck is a pretty big factor in the game. Everything is done with die rolls, and you as the player are trying to make the best decisions you can based upon the situation. Boosting stats can certainly help a lot toward getting more successes, but it isn’t a foolproof method. I’ve suffered tons of damage from low-level enemies that kept rolling 5-6 on their damage while I couldn’t get above a 2. Those things can and will happen. And they’ll suck. I still enjoy the experience, but there is a chance that a session will go south just from sheer random chance. They do sell some decks to replace dice rolls, emulating more of a board game feel, and that might make things feel a little better. But know that things can and will be swingy at times.

Final Thoughts

My first impression, upon receiving the D100 books and flipping through them, was that I was in for an experience that was going to be challenging to keep track of as I went. It looked like a ton of things to remember as you go in there, not to mention tables upon tables to reference. It honestly intimidated me for far too long, being something I’d look at and say “some day I’ll try that one”. Then my printer was out of ink, and so I used that as a reason to not try it because I couldn’t print out pages to use for the character sheet and map, etc. Finally I just sucked it up and tried it during an evening where I had plenty of time to give it my full attention, and instantly regretted my hesitation.

Yes, there is a lot of information in the book, but most of it is used in small chunks and it is laid out well enough to be able to reference what you need. And the game is relatively simple in its progression of turns. In spite of the constant flipping through the book to reference various charts (something you could just print out to have loose if desired), it was really fun and had me hooked. Enough so that I stayed up far too late the first night playing it, and then had to do the next training mission on the following morning. It is easy to pull out and start playing, and functions well even if you play in 10-15 minute blocks of time. Because it has almost no table presence, it is the perfect “grab and play” style of game for when you don’t have the time (or motivation) to go through setting up and tearing down a game.

The starter quests are fun enough, and I understand the importance of taking a character through them when you first begin because they do help you learn the ropes of the game with a slow ramp in difficulty. However, the requirement to loot a specific treasure type off enemies means you not only need to find said enemies, but that they also need to be ones that drop the loot type you need. And if you are taking -30 off your roll for encounters, and everything dropping a Weapon is 30+ on the Encounter table, that means you need to roll 60+ in order to avoid an energy-sapping battle against a weakling enemy that will likely only give you something worth a handful of Gold. Sure, it progresses you along the experience track – and I’d rather kill a horde of weaklings to boost my character than to face down the tougher battles – but ultimately having 5-6 encounters in a row that are not helping you finish the quest can suck.

Ultimately, if it was mandatory to do those five quests every time you needed to roll up a new character – whether from death, retirement, or to try something new, this would be a game that would get played frequently when I had a character beyond those quests but might sit for months if I needed to churn through the intro-level quests again. However, there is a viable solution in the Player’s Handbook that you can purchase (which I will review separately at some point, when I’ve had time to explore that portion in more depth) because it has a method of creating a character who has already completed those quests. Now that I’ve been through those first five, I don’t intend to run that gauntlet unless the quest is rolled for selection. With 50 different quests out there (45 of the non-introductory type) in the base book, this game has some pretty nice replay value. The maps will generate differently each time, and even when you repeat a room you may discover something completely different in there. The game has a solid system that is easy to use and, in spite of navigating dozens of tables, it never feels overwhelming because you usually flip to 1-2 at any given time during the play. Even the encounters are done well enough, with the I-go, you-go approach to combat and the chance the monster could flee. Sometimes it is fun pushing around cardboard, but taking a pencil to the paper provides something completely different for an experience, and I never knew how much I enjoyed drawing out a map until I started exploring the D100 Dungeon…a place where I’ll be returning many times in the future because this is going to be a staple in my collection for a long time.

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One-Player Only · Review for One · Spring of Solitaire 2019 · Wargame Garrison

Review for One: Agricola, Master of Britain

Thank you for checking review #98 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 review copy of the game was sent in exchange for an honest review.

An overview of Agricola, Master of Britain

Agricola, Master of Britain is a board game designed by Tom Russell that is published by Hollandspiele. The box states it plays 1 player in 90 minutes.

It is the year of Vespasian and Titus – the sixth such ordinary consulship that Titus shared with his Imperial father. The civil war of a decade ago is but a memory, and the Flavians have restored peace and order to all corners of the empire, save one. The people of Brittania remain fiercely resistant to the will of their Roman masters, and the emperor has charged YOU with the seemingly impossible task of bringing them to heel.

Agricola, Master of Britain is a solitaire game of governance and conquest. To master the delicate political situation, you will need the right blend of military force, administration, bribery, and diplomacy. Every action you take matters, changing how the native populace feels about you and your rule. But you’ll never know exactly who’s with you or against you, because the game tracks this “under the hood”, or, more precisely, “in the cup”.

Three chit-pull cups (Friendly, Unfriendly, and Hostile) represent the allegiances of the units contained within those cups. After each action you take, one or more of these units are blindly moved from one cup to another. You’ll have a general idea of “I’m really cheesing them off” or “I should have a lot of friendlies available for recruitment”, but until you pull a chit, you won’t know who your friends really are, or where the next rebellion will spring up. This isn’t totally random: certain tribes naturally skew more in one direction or the other, and taking actions to stabilize a region after it’s been pacified will diminish the chances of revolt there.

Building the right armies, and taking the right actions at the right time is key to your success. But the Flavians – and particularly the hated Domitian – expect greater and greater results with each campaign season. You’ll need to meet and exceed them if you want to duplicate Agricola’s achievement.

My Thoughts

 I’ve always wanted to be a wargamer, but I’ve struggled to find a wargame system that is engaging enough to merit more plays. Something about “just play both sides” doesn’t appeal to me in a way to motivate it to hit the table beyond a first play. That is why I was always hesitant to pick up Agricola, Master of Britain because my history with solitaire wargaming has been less than stellar so far. Well, safe to say this shattered every expectation, not only being an enjoyable experience with every play (even those ending in an early loss), but providing an interesting game to play. It is wargaming that doesn’t make me try and outplay myself, and I cannot express enough how great that feels.

 The cup system on this game feels really innovative, and is far more interesting than rolling a die and consulting a table. It allows you to understand how your actions, as the Roman forces, are impacting the population’s feelings toward the Roman rule. Almost everything you do is going to send those chits conveying down toward the Hostile cup, and most of the game will be spent with a fairly sizable grouping in the Unfriendly cup and with almost nothing going into the Friendly cup. Apart from the mechanical enjoyment of the system here, which I did enjoy greatly, this also does a good job of representing (abstractly) the impact that certain decisions might have had upon the local population.

 While I absolutely hated it during moments of the gameplay, the fact that you can’t choose to “just move” means you need to really plan out your course of actions in order to reach the areas of the map you are trying to reach. In some instances you’ll be able to interact with the tribes on the map and at least try for something meaningful as you move through the map. Other times you’ll get the desirable Peacekeeping movement, which has a rare effect of moving chits out of the Hostile cup and into the Unfriendly cup. And if you really fail to plan – well, your movement might be accomplished only by passing for the turn and forfeiting the rest of your actions on the round. At least you get 1VP per action skipped, right? #planbetter

 Let’s talk about losing conditions in a solitaire game for a moment. This game can – and sometimes will – end long before the typical endgame trigger occurs. For example, in this you have 8 rounds to play and every round has a minimum VP threshold to meet in order to not lose the game. You must also balance the loss of troops, meaning you cannot blindly commit to battles without considering your odds of victory, and the use of your treasury which, if undefended, could get raided and if that raid brings it to 0, you lose. All of these are excellent ways of providing tension to the player, as you have variable things to juggle and make sure to meet minimums on throughout the game. You can’t simply ignore parts of the game and limp along to win. I love it so much, because it adds pressure and tension and gives me objectives to shoot for every round.

 Points are difficult to obtain in this game as a whole. The fact that you need to go from getting 3VP in the first round to getting 20VP in the final round shows that there are ways, as you get an “engine” going, to obtain that VP in bigger chunks. Because that VP is a losing condition, you can’t just focus on slaughtering the biggest threat because that may not be the best choice. You also can’t just sweep through with your strongest army, as promoting your troops is a key path to gaining consistent VP each turn. I love trying to puzzle out how to get a few more VP, and it is especially good when you finally get enough VP surplus to take advantage of purchasing new Legion units. Which…

 Those Legionary units are HARD to obtain because you need to spend VP to buy them. And you need to spend that VP prior to checking if you win or lose for the round, meaning you can only spend a surplus of points. Not only do they cost VP, but you need to have a Legion on one of the three starting camp spaces – something not necessarily easy to do late in the game – and no one Legion can have triple the number of Legionary units of any other Legion. Did I mention that you need to spend Legionary units to form Garrisons, which are essential to gaining VP and increasing your Income because they allow you to build Settlements? Oh, and if a Legion is ever without a Legionary unit in there, you automatically lose – so you can’t just dump all of your best troops into one Legion at the end to sweep through the far north where the Tribes are more challenging. If it sounds like I’m gushing over the brilliant struggle here, you’d be right: I absolutely love this challenge.

 Every action has an opposite reaction – apart from the free actions that Agricola can trigger. If you do Peacekeeping, chits move from cup-to-cup and then you pull chits from the Hostile cup to add to the map. Battle? Same thing. Passing? Yep, same thing. Which means every thing you do will inevitably lead to something on the map changing (unless you get lucky, because there ARE ways to prevent the chits drawn from getting added to the map. Usually via Legion/Garrison/Settlement presence on that specific location), This ensures a dynamic landscape to play in, as well as it provides a degree of risk. You can’t bank on X remaining static unless you know there are none of that particular chit in the Hostile cup.

 Agricola feels like an important part of the game because he has a set of actions he can do, and his presence “boosts” the action you take. He isn’t tied to a specific Legion, which is nice, but you’ll want to be using his Legion more often than the others just because he makes everything you do more powerful. Because the game responds to every action you take, you’ll want every small advantage you can get.

 The game is still going to have a decent amount of luck. Sometimes it swings in your way. Sometimes it swings against you. That 1/8 chance of failure will happen. Sometimes it might happen several times in a row, completely obliterating you against all odds. Such is the way things go in war. If this would cause you to flip the table or walk away in frustration to never want to play the game again – this probably isn’t the game for you. Chit pulls are random, and sometimes those will completely go against your plans. Die rolls, being d8 help some but they can still cause those wild swings. Randomness happens. Consider yourself warned.

 So far the game takes longer than it should for me. A complete game of 8 turns runs close to 2 hours still, and part of that is because I need to reference the rulebook for the number of Tribal Reactions for each action. The back of the rulebook has a handy reference on the cup changes for the actions, but surprisingly leaves this aspect off the quick reference. Realizing this now after typing it out…I’m going to mark those on that back myself to see if that makes it faster. While I’ve always enjoyed the game and it never felt like it went too long, I’m still nowhere close to the marketed 60-90 minute time on there unless I lose early.

 If you are spoiled by the high production quality featured on Stonemaier Games products or the latest Kickstarter funding projects, then your expectations are going to be disappointed when you receive this game. Understandably so, as Hollandspiele is a small company run by a husband and wife and their focus is on making great games, not great components in games. There is a half sheet of chits, a rulebook, a d8, and two paper maps in the box. It isn’t going to scream production quality when you get the game (although if you can snag a rare mounted copy of the boards, that’d be a great steal for you!). However, as you’ll see here shortly…the quality of the gameplay MORE than compensates for the price of this one.

Final Thoughts

My biggest regret about Agricola, Master of Britain is that I didn’t pick it up sooner. I’ve wanted to. I have literally been on the Hollandspiele website with it in my cart, and decided to hold off. All because my relationship with wargames as a solo experience had never lived up to my hopes. But I shouldn’t have compared this to those other experiences, because this game was designed to be a solitaire experience. I don’t have to play both sides, trying to make optimal decisions on each side and being conflicted about which side to root for. The game’s system plays against me in a masterful way for a solitaire experience.

There is luck and randomness, as you would expect in any wargame, and it hasn’t really bothered me. Most of the time the odds level out over time, and rarely has a string of bad luck completely bombed the game for me. Better play will triumph over time. And that is exactly what I want out of a game like this. The cup system is brilliant and exciting, and the Tribal Reactions are enough to both keep me on my toes and to make me strongly consider certain actions, knowing how many cup changes and then reactions will happen as a result.

While the game runs longer than it should based on the printed playtime, it has never overstayed its welcome. The host of losing conditions, and the real possibility of losing in an early round, are both enjoyable qualities for the game. And an early loss only motivates me to reset and try again. The setup and teardown for this game are relatively quick and easy once you get things organized which will only help it hit the table more often.

There are so many excellent decisions to make throughout the game, and every action feels important. And every action has a reaction, making them even more vital. This was my first Hollandspiele title to hit my collection and my table, and I can say with absolute certainty that it will not be the last. It is worth every penny for this game, as the gameplay more than compensates for any perceived lack of production quality. This game is brilliant and satisfying and will be a game I delightfully return to time and again going forward. Charlemagne, Master of Europe will be hitting the table in the near future for a review, and I expect that to be at least as enjoyable as this one – only bigger and longer and likely more epic. With several more solitaire wargame titles already in the Hollandspiele catalog, and a host of interesting multiplayer games to choose from as well, I will definitely be expanding my collection of their titles going forward.

One-Player Only · Review for One · Spring of Solitaire 2019

Review for One: Maquis

Thank you for checking review #91 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 prototype of the game was sent in exchange for an honest review. This game is currently on Kickstarter!

An overview of Maquis

Maquis is a board game designed by Jake Stains that is being published in 2019 by Side Room Games. The box states it plays 1 player in 20 minutes.

Engage the Nazi occupation of France in la petite guerre to throw off the yoke of the oppressors and free your homeland!

Maquis is a solitaire worker-placement game with variable goals and a play time of approximately twenty minutes. The player places his resistance agents on spaces around town to achieve his goals – blowing up trains, publishing underground newspapers – but at the same time Milice collaborators and Wehrmacht soldiers patrol the area. Agents who can’t make it back to the safe house at the end of the day are arrested, and never seen again.

My Thoughts

When you think of worker placement, you think of putting out meeples to take an action or collect an item. And that is true still in Maquis. However, this game takes worker placement to the next level by adding in an incredible amount of tension based upon the level of risk you are willing to take. Do you place a worker on the outskirts location whose action you need to use this round, or do you try and build your safe route up the map and hope it remains open? And as the meeples get placed, and so many likely spots fill up, do you gamble and place the last worker on a useful spot that might lead to one of your workers being captured, or do you play it safe with a “wasted” spot but keep your small group in tact for another round? Those are just a few of the placement decisions you need to make every turn in Maquis.

Everything I love about Maquis can be summed up in one word: tension. This game is a solo experience like few others, where every turn feels like you could be dealt the fatal blow that ends the game prematurely. Careful consideration needs to go in to what you need and how to chart out the path to obtain it. Items beyond food are difficult to obtain, either from the path you need to trace to secure the item or from the cost (not just in what you pay, but in how many turns/actions it may take to even use the space). Every placement of your worker leads to seeing how the opponent places their next Milice worker, which either leads to a sigh of relief or a silent curse based upon where they go. Even worse, it may lead to agony over the loss of your worker. The tension permeates throughout the entire experience – an enjoyable quality for a solitaire game and a fitting experience considering the theme.

Resources are incredibly hard to earn, apart from food. This means you need to carefully plan ahead a turn or two. Not only that, but the Milice can block your path meaning you need to know where and how to pivot on a turn if your Plan A gets foiled before you can lock down a safe path. Although if this happens enough times, you could find yourself foiled by the game because…

There are two missions you need to accomplish to win the game, and they are different every time you play (okay, so you could have the same ones, since they are from a small stack of cards, but you get the idea). These often have you delivering a specific set of resources, either bringing different sets in order on different days or bringing them within a certain timeline (such as no sooner than Day 6 but no later than Day 9). Some even require you to keep said worker on the card for a span of time, such as until you deliver the next batch or until a specific day passes. These throw interesting wrinkles in your approach from game to game.

Okay, so I said that the difficulty of resources was a good thing. And I mostly stand behind that. However, the one resource that feels like it is “priced” wrong is the money. You need it to get Firearms (it is the most straightforward way, but not the only way) which appear on a lot of missions that I’ve played and are used to eliminate Milice if they are blocking your path to safety. More importantly, you need two money to upgrade a Spare Room space into one of the six available rooms. Because there is only one way at the start to earn money, and it costs you a resource AND a morale to gain, it pretty much forces you to build the money action space first if you have any need to use the Radio spaces for something besides Firearms, or if you want to build more than one room. This means my early game almost always consists of gaining food/medical supplies and turning them in for money for the first two turns, building the money room, and then turning in a set of food and medical supplies to try and earn back part of the double hit on the morale track. There is still tension in these rounds, as the Milice can mess with those plans along the way, but I don’t like feeling like I’m making the game harder for myself if I don’t follow that sequence in the first 3-4 turns of the game.

I understand the philosophy on the Patrol deck size. And I have no issues with it as it stands. I certainly am unlikely to be smart enough, or obsessive enough, to perfectly memorize the deck to the point where I can know what those final cards are (even if I do not know their order) when the deck gets depleted. Some players may feel a rewarding sense of accomplishment from that deck memorization. As for me, I’d rather have a larger deck so it needs shuffled less often.

Okay, so this isn’t even a critique of the game itself, but rather a wild suggestion on something that would provide an interesting twist and add replay value. Right now the board is a static design. What if there was an alternate layout on the back of the board? Or, better yet, small modular tiles that you could randomly distribute to change up what locations appear where on the board. Yes, it might make some resources (such as information) easier to obtain for that play. But it would make something different more challenging at the same time. But even without these “what if” changes, this game remains so good that I struggle to find anything fully negative to say about the experience. It provides everything I want in a solo game of this type – which leads me to:

Final Thoughts

Rarely can a person spend time in the Print and Play circle without hearing hushed whispers of Maquis and how it is such a great solo game. It was a game always on the fringe of my radar, but my skill with Print and Play games is so laughably low that I rarely get the opportunity to construct one and get it played. The easier the build, the better the chances of one day following through with it.

Well, I should have taken the time to print this one years ago, because it is absolutely worth the time and effort it would have taken to make the game. Thankfully, Side Room Games is helping those of us who are Print and Play challenged and bringing this game to production. And dang, this game is good.

So many worker placement games involve trying to successfully top a score, whether that is a personal high score or a predetermined “opponent” score, and it was refreshing to play one where there was a win/loss condition. Not only that, but the placement, and order of placement, for your workers matters a TON in the game. If you cannot make it back to a Safe House successfully, you lose the worker. Run out of workers, and you’ve hit one of the losing conditions.

The hallmark of a great worker placement game is struggling to be able to do everything you want to from turn to turn and by the end of the game. That provides serious tension, and it is completely true with Maquis. The hallmark of a great solo game is that it provides tense and challenging decisions, provides replay value, and is easy to navigate. Maquis checks all of those boxes, too, providing an excellent worker placement game for solitaire gaming. Regardless of your current collection, much like Black Sonata before this, you have a slot in your shelves for a game like this because it is just so different than what else is available.

The world of Print and Play greats are showing their mettle, with games like Maquis, Black Sonata, Pocket Landship, The Draugr, Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden, The Maiden in the Forest, Assembly, and more getting published. And you will find that there are a great many excellent games out there that started as a Print and Play, just like Maquis.

One-Player Only · Review for One · Solo Gaming · Spring of Solitaire 2019

Review for One – Robin Hood: Hero of the People

Thank you for checking review #89 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 prototype of the game was sent in exchange for an honest review. This game is slated to hit Kickstarter in April.

An overview of Robin Hood: Hero of the People

Robin Hood: Hero of the People is a board game designed by Rodney Owen that is being published in 2019 by The Game Crafter, LLC. The box states it plays 1 player in 15-30 minutes.

Play as Robin Hood and his merry men in this solo card game. As Robin Hood you’ll rob from the rich, give to the poor battle the Sheriff of Nottingham, his goons and recruit your merry men. Increase your influence over the people to gain power and win the game, but be careful, the Sheriff has put a bounty on your head. If it gets too high the people will turn you in for the reward.

Robin Hood: Hero of the People is a solo card adventure. The object of the game is to recruit your band of Merry men consisting of Maid Marian, Little John, Will Scarlett, Friar Tuck, Alan a Dale and Much the Miller. There is also a bounty on your head. During the game the bounty will increase so be careful that it doesn’t get too high.

Each turn has 3 phases, Rob the Rich, Action and story Phases. During the rob the rich phase draw 3 cards from the loot deck. These include resources that you will use to complete actions.

During the action phases, play resource cards to recruit characters, decrease the bounty, build your Sherwood Forest camp and buy special abilities from King Richard

During the story phase, draw and resolve a story card. Story cards add extra challenges to players, some you can overcome, some you can’t.

Once you have other characters recruited you can swap to take advantage of special character abilities.

Once you have all the characters available and the bounty set at 500 gold or lower, you have won the game. If at anytime the bounty tracker reaches 1000 gold or you play the final story card, you lose.

-description from designer

My Thoughts

 There simply aren’t enough Robin Hood games out there. He remains one of my favorite characters and stories to visit, especially the original Middle English tales, and so any time I see Robin Hood as a theme I’m going to be interested. It has some nice artwork that evokes the modern version of Robin Hood.

 The game is a super-fast setup and teardown. It has quick-moving turns that have three phases, each being simple to understand and to execute. All of this combines to make a solo game that will be easy to get to the table, even as a last-minute decision during an evening because it moves along quickly and goes from box-to-table with relative ease.

 The bounty system is interesting and clever. I wish it was a little more involved here, but it does provide something to keep an eye on and to debate whether you need to burn an action to reduce the bounty level – especially since being at 500 or lower is a requirement for winning the game.

 There are multiple characters (seven of them!) to recruit and use in the game. While you’ll always begin as Robin Hood, the order in which you recruit them can change from game to game and they have their varying degree of usefulness. Do you save up an extra turn or two early to get that high-cost but extremely useful character right away? Or do you settle for that easy recruit, taking advantage of the extra cards or actions they can provide?

 The story cards deck is a great concept to include in the game. After all, it adds some risk into the mix, and can foil your plans. It serves as the timer for the game, and has a ramp-up in effect as it gets to the B-series of cards. However, they can whiff far too often in their effect, and even the ones that raise the bounty are not as impactful as they could be. I’ve found the deck as a whole is far too large, and that by the time I get to the B-deck I am close enough to ending the game that, at worst, the deck will delay my victory by a handful of turns. I’m yet to be completely foiled by its impact. I’m still puzzled as to why this happens at the end of the turn rather than second, making it so your cards you just played are at risk rather than just those you’re storing up for future turns.

 The rulebook needs work. Everything outlined in there is clear enough, and the game is pretty darn simple mechanically. But there are small things that could use some clarification, such as the fact that you only use one character each turn (it never mentions that, nor the timing of when you would choose who to use for that turn). More than just that, it feels like this game needs just a little more development time – something it may get through the crowdfunding idea generator via kickstarter. There’s a lot of good things in the game, but as you’ll see in some of the points below, it needs just a little more polish and sharpening of the player experience. At least to cater toward my own taste as a solo gamer.

 I understand the possible benefit from the Sherwood Forest cards. I absolutely love that they exist. However, they have proven to be nothing more than a waste of an action and resources. If they used something less common, such as the rarely-useful Archery cards, I might pick them up more in off-turns. Since they are not a win-condition, there is little reason to spend 6 actions and 12 might to construct those cards for a small decrease in bounty and protection for a few characters from being captured.

 There is absolutely no tension in this game, at least for me when I am playing. Is there times when I idle a few turns until I finally get the cards I need? Sure, and that is to be expected with the oversized stack of Loot cards. But my Bounty has never gone north of 600 (and you need to keep it at 500 or lower to win, with plenty of ways to decrease it by at least 100 per round), and I’ve never come close to the end of the “B” story cards. I don’t always get into those, in fact. By the time that point draws near, I’m usually a recruit or two away from winning and have a character-engine in place (Maid Marian to pull 2 Gold from my discard, next turn use Will Scarlett to draw from the discard pile. By his action phase, I should be set to recruit the next character. Rinse and repeat.) I’ve never lost nor come close to losing the game across all my plays. And while I’ve enjoyed the plays, the lack of tension is unlikely to make this be a game I reach for often because I want a game where it feels like I have to work hard to avoid defeat. Part of the problem is there are likely too many story cards in the deck, and the ramping up is far too slow. Randomly removing some of them might make for a more exciting game.

Final Thoughts

This game held the potential to check so many boxes for me: solo game, Robin Hood theme, a deck of story cards, card-driven gameplay, multiple characters. Add in a small footprint, quick setup/teardown, and good game length and there is oh so much potential in this little box.

Sadly, the game itself never quite lived up to what it could have been. This is by no means a bad game, but with the glut of games being produced anymore a game needs to stand out from the crowd rather than being a game in a pile of games. And perhaps some of the fault for this rests with me, as I probably had pretty high expectations going into the game and few games can ever meet those lofty pre-game hype expectations. Yet as I played this, every time I felt like it lacked a real sense of tension during the game. And that is, I believe, where it comes up short.

Ignore the fact that the Sherwood Forest cards can be ignored (and likely should be, too, as the cost to build them is unlikely to offset the small benefit they provide). Disregard those King Richard cards that are really costly for the moment. Even gloss over the small improvements that could be made with the rulebook to clarify the gameplay. The crux of the problem here is a lack of tension.

My win ratio is 100% setill, and I’m yet to come close to losing regardless of the difficulty level. Twice I’ve gotten into the Story 2 cards, and never have I come close to the end of that deck. Only once has my bounty climbed above 600. Once you draw those cards you need to recruit a character, there is little the game can do to stop you from getting that character. Far too often those story cards are a flip and discard because they target cards I either haven’t placed out or already spent in the second phase.

I’ve had times where I felt frustrated when I couldn’t draw the cards I needed from the loot deck – having everyone left needing Gold for recruitment but getting no Gold cards can do that – but I’ve never felt like I was at a risk of losing the game. Not only that, but it almost feels like I’ve “cracked the code” for this game, knowing which characters to prioritize recruiting (such as Maid Marian, because she can pull 2 Gold from the discard pile OR use her native 2 Influence to drop the Bounty by 100). I prefer a challenging solo experience, where I am having to cleverly outwit what obstacles the game is placing in my path or face imminent defeat.

And while this game has lots of neat things, a theme I like, and a wealth of potential here; it falls short of the measuring stick for what I personally prefer in a solo game experience.

Game Design · One-Player Only · The Honor of the Queen

The Honor of the Queen – A Solo PnP Game

A few of you may already be aware, but it is time to open that awareness up to a broader audience. Last week I had a game design idea reach fruition, and thus The Honor of the Queen was born. 9 cards, 15 counters, and 4 pages of rules is all you need to print out to try this out. But I’m getting ahead of myself a little here.

The idea for the game’s constraints came from Button Shy Games, actually, when they tweeted out a few weeks ago that they were on the lookout for designs that use 9 cards and a few components. Challenge accepted. I also happened to dialogue a little with Alf Seegert, designer of games such as Fantastiqa and The Road to Canterbury, regarding our shared love for literature. He encouraged me to attempt a design in the future with one of those stories in mind, and there was where the theme eventually came into play.

Story

Lancelot, the greatest of all of King Arthur’s knights, was accused of having romantic trysts with Queen Guinevere. First to accuse him was Meliagaunt, whom Lancelot challenged in combat to prove the Queen’s innocence. During the contest, Lancelot cleaved his opponent’s head in half and cleared the Queen of those charges. However, rumors continued to abound and soon other knights became suspicious. Sir Agravain and Sir Mordred gathered twelve knights and stormed Guinevere’s chamber, finding Lancelot there with the Queen. Now you, as Sir Lancelot, must try to escape and fight your way out of the castle and prove the innocence of Queen Guinevere before King Arthur has her burned to death for infidelity.

Object of the Game

You are fighting to escape the perils of the castle and, at the same time, trying to defend the Honor of the Queen you love. You will test your Knightly Virtues against those of the 14 knights standing in your way and fight to emerge victorious. If you can defeat 8 of the 14 knights along your path you will clear the name of your Queen and escape into the night. However, all is not as easy as it may seem. With every failure to defeat a knight, your Knightly Virtues will decrease and the Honor of your Queen will move one step closer to peril. Should you lose to 7 knights, or have two of your Virtues reach a value of 0, Lancelot will be banished from the lands and the Queen will burn for her sins.

***

There was a sliver of time left to slip this one into the BGG Solitaire PnP Design Contest, and so a thread for the game is up and running where you can find the files to print the components and the rules. I can make changes until the 16th, and after that the game is locked in for the contest.

So my hope, dear readers, is that you might find some interest in trying out the game. Even if you cannot get to it by the 16th, every little bit of feedback will help this game grow and evolve before I send a final submission over to Button Shy.

So check out the thread, and be sure to post there and let me know any feedback you have regarding this quick-playing solitaire game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/2055540/wip-honor-queen-2018-solitaire-pnp-contest-compone

Board Gaming · One-Player Only · Review for One · Solo Gaming · Solo Month · Uncategorized

Review for One (& two) – Circuit Breaker

Thank you for checking review #56 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.

**A prototype of the game was sent for review purposes. Opinions remain our own.

An Overview of Circuit Breaker

Circuit Breaker is a game designed by Peter Mariutto and was published by Freshwater Game Company. The box states that it can play 1-3 players and has a 30-45 minute play time.

Circuit Breaker is a casual strategy game that can be played solo or with up to two other friends. All players attempt to successfully re-wire their own houses in time for a hastily scheduled house party, and will score points by connecting a variety of quirky electrical doodads to their home circuits. Resource management and a crafty rodent will be put to use in a fun and cheeky race to be the most ‘happening’ place on the block.

—description from the publisher

Setup and gameplay for 1 Player

Lay out the party favor tiles and place the corresponding cubes on those tiles. Shuffle the Wire stack and place it face-down, and lay out two cards from the top of it next to that stack. Shuffle the Appliance stack and place if face-down beside the Wire stack. Place a breaker box in front of you. Stack the round tokens in ascending order. Deal yourself a secret objective card, 2 Appliance tiles, and a Wire tile. Take a mouse and 8 dice, and setup is complete.

The object is to score as many points as you can before the end of the 4th round. You’ll roll all 8 dice and then start taking one of four actions:

Buy a tile or Party Favor – spend 1 or more dice to take one of the 3 available Wire tiles or a Party Favor, matching the value spent exactly.

Trade for Appliance – Discard an Appliance card from your hand to take the top card off the Appliance stack into your hand. Or you can trade 4 value in Party Favors to look at the top 3 Appliance cards and keep one, putting the other two on the bottom of the stack.

Place up to 2 Tiles – Put 1-2 tiles from your hand out onto your network, making sure everything connects properly (1-wire to 1-wire, 3-wire to 3-wire, etc.)

Move the Mouse – Subtract 2 from an active die to move the mouse. The die must be used for a purchase on the same turn and must happen before movement. Then, the tile that the mouse was on is taken back into the player’s hand. That appliance cannot go back in its old spot on the next action.

Play continues until all 8 dice have been spent, at which point the round ends. Reroll all dice, draw an appliance card, and remove a round counter.

At the end of the game you score 1 point per single appliance not on your objective card, 3 points for each non-objective pair of appliances, 3 points for a single appliance on your objective card, and 9 points for a pair of appliances on your objective card. You also score points for the value of your remaining party favors, divided in half and rounded down (ex. 15 points in favors, divided by 2 = 7)

Changes for a 2-3 player game

Each player gets 6 dice. On a player’s turn they may complete each of the four actions once (so they take 1-4 actions). There is a mousetrap token that can be moved in the same manner as the mouse.

Placing the mouse on another player’s tile will allow you, when you move the mouse again, to bring that tile into your hand. Placing it on their breaker box will allow you, when you move the mouse again, to steal a tile from their hand. Moving the mousetrap onto a mouse will send it back to the appliance stack without losing your tile.

As soon as a player cannot make at least two actions the round ends and progresses in the same manner as above.

My Thoughts

 This game shines with another player at the table. The push-pull with the mouse is what really makes this game come alive. It becomes a fun exercise of trying to decide when to place those key appliances and how early to put out a pair or anything else that might become a target. Using the mouse trap is a great defensive addition, and this interaction here is what is really lacking in a solo game of Circuit Breaker. But I wanted to emphasize that there is a significant difference between the solo game and the 2-player game.

 I like the requirement to move the mouse being to not only reduce a die by 2, but to also immediately make a purchase using that die. The mouse can play a small part in opening up spaces on the board in a solo game, but it becomes a critical element in the 2-3 player game experience. The cost to move it presents some interesting decisions along the way, which is something that is otherwise limited throughout the game.

 There are only three ways to get those critical appliance cards: discard an appliance from your hand to draw a new one, or discard 4 value of Party Favors to draw 3 and keep 1, and you draw one at the end of each round. Well, apart from the mouse being on the top of the Appliance stack, too, which will get you a card once it is moved off there, so technically there are four ways. But for the majority of the game, it is only two. One is simple and costs you little but it is slow. The other costs you something you have to purchase with those dice, which is your finite resource to gain wires in order to expand your network.

 You can’t do the same action twice in a row, which prevents you from endlessly digging for those appliance cards. That means you either need to play cards or spend dice in between that desperate search. And in order to play cards, you’ll need to buy those wires, which cost dice to gain (up to 8 value!) and can bring the round to an end even faster. I like that the game requires you to change things up each turn, which will eventually bring that round to an end no matter how much you might wish otherwise.

 Scoring is relatively simple and straight-forward, rewarding you for placing pairs of appliances and for placing the appliances on your objective card. You also score for those leftover Party Favors, which is a nice touch and allows you to spend those “garbage” dice on something meaningful toward the end of the game if you don’t need wires to place appliances.

 I find the theme and the art to be really fun in this one. Honestly, that is what hooked me when they reached out to me. I think some people might be turned off by the theme, but they shouldn’t be. Unique ideas to a game’s theme, and some fun and vibrant art like the art in this game, should be rewarded and encouraged.

 That appliance deck can really suck. Like, brutally suck. There is a pretty thick stack of appliances and you’re looking for 4 specific appliances. There are a total of 8 cards in there you need because each appliance appears twice. Good luck trying to get that appliance you desperately need, because the odds are against you. And since a non-objective appliance is only worth 1 point (unless you get them both out), the game seems to encourage you to toss cards over and over until you dig up what you needed all along. I like that it is costly in resources to cycle that faster, but every game I’ve played started to feel like a challenge to see how fast I can get lucky and draw that card I needed.

 Dice. I didn’t even try to teach this to my wife after my first two solo plays of this one because I just knew. If the dice in Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia and in Ars Alchimia bother her, there is no way she’ll like them in this one. Yes, if you are really unlucky and roll a lot of the same number the rules allow you to reroll. But there is no manipulation of those dice once they are rolled. If I roll a combination that is almost all 1-3 and you roll almost all 4-6, I’m way behind. My buying power is effectively half, at best, what yours is for the round so you’ll be able to get those wires (especially if they are all 7-8 cost) and party favors you need for “cheap” whereas it’ll cost me more dice to get the same things. No die roll is wasted, as you can buy party favors, but with no way to increase those dice you’ve very much at the mercy of the random roll.

 The solo game is just not interesting enough as the prototype stands. The mechanics of it are fine, but there is just something lacking from the experience. Yes, there is a scoring system (identical to with more players) and you can try and beat your own high score. But I don’t like these types of solo games that only have that. I need a win/lose requirement in there or some sort of AI or other system that competes against me. Fire in the Library does this well by having the AI score points and burn more of the Library with the cards that are already in the standard deck. Imperial Settlers does this well by having an “opponent” that gains cards and can steal your buildings with a simple set of cards. They both simulate something that can happen in a multiplayer game, and I really think that Circuit Breaker needs something like that to take it to that next level. It has that great mouse mechanic already in there. Now it just needs a way to simulate player interaction points in order to provide both an obstacle to the player and a point threshold for the player to surpass. If they can add something like that into the solo experience of the game, it would help that to be a great solo addition to pull out when you don’t have 1-2 other players to game with.

Final Thoughts

This game was an interesting one to get, and one I hadn’t really planned to review as a solo experience. It simply worked out that I ended up with an empty spot in the month late-in-the-game and I had played this a few times. My first play solo fell flat, but it was definitely on me rather than the game. I played it a little wrong, and that was the difference. It felt way too long and free-flowing. The next play, with the right understanding of the rules, was way tighter and ended up over 10 points lower for a score. It went from feeling sandbox-y to feeling tight with what I could accomplish.

At both player counts my one gripe remains the same: the game feels a little too driven by chance. There is a large stack of appliances, and it is difficult to dig through there without spending dice, which in turn will reduce the wires you can buy (that is one thing I do love). But there are so many different appliances in there. Each appliance has a single pair in that deck. Getting a pair of appliances can cost you a ton of actions. Digging for the ones on your card can cost you the game. If one person gets those cards early and the other one gets non-matching and non-objective appliances for most of the game then it can feel like it snowballs in a bad way. Same with the rolling of dice: if I roll higher than you, I will be able to buy more over the course of the game.

In the solo game, this becomes a chore of trying to dig until you find pairs and/or objective appliances. And it can be really flat when you have to dig for a long time.

In a 2-player game, this aspect can shine. Your opponent draws that appliance you need? There’s the mouse to pull that into your hand. That push-pull system is so much better with a higher player count, which is something I had been told to expect when they sent me the game. And I agree – 2 players is probably the perfect player count on this one. I imagine the 3-player game can be interesting, but could have a small chance of kingmaking or runaway leader. The solo game is a puzzle without any real win/lose conditions (something that, maybe, could be tweaked before the game is published? I’ll be asking for that!)

Overall, if you like a strategic game that does have some above-average dependence upon dice then this is a good one. Its length is a little longer than I’d like for a game with that much luck, especially solo, but the interactions can make this one fun enough to forgive that randomness. Plus my wife and I are pretty averse to random elements as a whole, so we’re not necessarily the target audience here. If you enjoy dice-rolling, interesting decisions, player interaction, and a fun and unique theme, then you should definitely check this out when it hits Kickstarter.

***

Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Circuit Breaker. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas

Board Gaming · One-Player Only · Review for One · Solo Gaming

Review for One – Black Sonata

Thank you for checking review #55 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 Black Sonata

Black Sonata is a game designed by John Kean and was published by Side Room Games. The box states that it can play 1 player and has a 15-30 minute play time and a BGG weight rating of 2.0.

For more than four centuries scholars have argued over the identity of the mysterious Dark Lady of William Shakespeare’s sonnets. According to the sonnets, the Dark Lady seduced the poet and held him in an agonised thrall while also conducting an affair with the Fair Youth who Shakespeare also loved.

In Black Sonata you will find yourself in Shakespeare’s London, circa 1600, in pursuit of the shadowy Lady. A specially ordered deck of cards determines her hidden movements from place to place. You must deduce her location and then intercept her to catch a glimpse and gain a clue to her identity. You will need several clues to deduce her identity, but with each clue gained the Lady becomes harder to track. Black Sonata combines hidden movement and logical deduction into a unique solitaire steeped in literary history.

Can you finally solve English literature’s greatest mystery? Or will the Dark Lady elude you, melting from your grasp like a curl of smoke and promises?

***

For this review I am doing something a little different: videos! Check them out to see my progression of thoughts on this fun little game.

Unboxing

First Impressions

Runthrough

Final Thoughts

***

Hopefully you found these videos to be a useful look at Black Sonata. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas