Button Shy Games · Solo Gaming · Two-Player Only

Look to Button Shy for your Valentine’s Day Gaming

(Originally posted at: https://buttonshygames.com/blogs/news-1/look-to-button-shy-for-your-valentines-day-gaming )

Valentine’s Day is a traditional holiday where we associate celebrating the day with flowers or chocolates and having a fancy dinner at a restaurant. This year allow Button Shy Games to help make your romantic date a little more memorable with some of these portable, fast, and fun games that the two of you can play while waiting for your food to arrive. Or that you can stay up late playing long after the children have gone to bed. With games that fit in your pocket, these Button Shy titles make the perfect pairing for any Valentine’s Day situation.

Arcane Bakery Clash

Arcane Bakery Clash is a resource management game, where your resource is time – and not just the roughly 30 minutes it’ll take you to play the game. Specifically, time to cook the magical treats that you will use against your co-worker. I dare you to find a more thematically-appropriate game to play during dinner. In Arcane Bakery Clash you can choose 2 actions per turn, and you will either put a recipe card in the oven, peek into an oven, turn up the heat, or take a recipe out of the oven. With these actions you will bake new treats that are used to either reduce your opponent’s health, heal yourself, or allow special actions. Show your spouse how much you care by reducing their health to 0 and become the most talented baker in Arcane Bakery Clash.

Circle the Wagons

Circle the Wagons is a card drafting, card-laying game that can be played in about the time it takes for appetizers to arrive. Three cards are flipped to form the scoring objectives, and the rest get placed in a nice circle – think of it as a circle of trust – and you’ll take turns going around said circle drafting cards. Don’t like the next card in the line? You can skip ahead to take any card, but the cards you skip immediately go to your opponent to add to their little boomtown. Once all cards have been drafted and added to your towns, the objectives are scored and the largest groups of each of the six terrains are scored to determine the winner. Playable in roughly 15 minutes, Circle the Wagons will leave you wanting to reset for a rematch again and again.

Herotec

Perhaps you’re among the crowd itching for the next superhero movie to hit the theaters. Well, you may find that HeroTec is the perfect game for you and your significant other. In this game you’ll be competing to outfit a superhero client who requires four types of items: a gadget, a costume, a vehicle, and a lair. Players will race to be the first to complete the job, while also trying to build the best tech. In HeroTec you must outfit your superhero client by first drafting cards and placing them directly into your Workshop. There you will use the card for its resources, trying to build items for your Showroom. Each card is multi-use, featuring level I, II and III resources, as well as a special ability that allows you to build a very unique engine that will guide you to victory. Once a player has all 4 items in their showroom, it’s time to bring out the superhero and see which HeroTec employee makes the best impression.

Kintsugi

Kintsugi is the Japanese art form of repairing broken pottery with gold lacquer, to show the imperfect history of the object, and to affirm that it is better for having been broken. Therefore in this small tile-laying game you are repairing a piece of pottery, then playing the role of an art critic for your opponent. You can win by being a better artist, being a better critic, or both! In true minimalist tradition, the lowest score wins making it an interesting twist on most scoring objectives in games. If you are looking for something with a more abstract, cultural theme to pair with your meal you may find that this caters to your tastes.

Liberation

Perhaps you’d like to put on your favorite Space Opera film and recreate the epic struggles between the forces of good and evil while watching them play out on the screen. Allow me to introduce you to Liberation, a game that plays out a miniature rebellion of galactic scale on your tabletop. An asymmetrical game of cat and mouse, the Dynasty player expands their web of power, occupying and exploiting planet cards, while the Liberation player strikes from the shadows, sabotaging the Dynasty’s hand and performing daring missions. Can you stall long enough to cycle through the deck 3 times, earning enough support to topple the Dynasty, or will you scour the galactic map, tightening the noose around the secret base of the Liberation to attack and destroy them? Be warned, though: you may find that you are too engrossed in this little game to pay much attention to your rewatch of that Space Opera. At least it provides a thematically-appropriate source of sound effects and soundtrack.

Mint Julep

In Mint Julep, you’ll be attending a horse race. You will draft cards, place bets and then manipulate the race in order to ensure the horse that you want to win ends up finishing the race in a top spot. Be careful where you place your bet because the odds might be against you! Final scoring is based on where horses start in the race (horses starting in lower positions are worth more points), where horses end in the race (more points earned for higher place finishers), and when a bet was played (with later bets being worth less than earlier bets). Can you outwit and outbet your significant other in this equestrian experience? Place your bets on Mint Julep and you’ll end up with a winner in your pocket.

Potions Class

Potions Class is an explosive game of set collection a bit of press your luck mixed in for good measure. You will take turns adding a card to a potion, your reserve and your opponent’s reserve. These are done one at a time, in whatever order you choose, but you won’t know what the next card will be when making these decisions. If you complete a potion, you claim it as yours, but you need to watch out for your opponent’s reserve. It might be just enough to push them over the edge and complete a potion that you were working on. Potions Class is for two players, and plays very well with young kids in case you want to get a little bonding time in with the little ones before putting them to bed. It also works quite well as a relaxing game to wind down your evening and pairs well with liquid potions for your own consumption.

Sprawlopolis

In Sprawlopolis you will work together to build a new city by playing a card from your hand to grow the city. Much like Circle the Wagons, three cards will be flipped over to show the scoring conditions for that specific game – however, this also determines the minimum score you’ll have to achieve in order to claim victory. The two of your will have to communicate and plan without revealing your own cards in order to most efficiently develop large areas in each of the 4 zone types. However, each road will cost you points in the end. Watch a sprawling metropolis grow as you cultivate the expanding landscape together in Sprawlopolis.

Twin Stars Adventure Series I

For those whose Valentine’s Day is spent alone, we have some excellent games for you as well! Circle the Wagons, with its Lone Cowboy expansion, and Sprawlopolis are both excellent solitaire experiences. But you may want to launch into the stars and explore the vastness of space in our solitaire-only Twin Stars Adventure Series I. Two cosmic adventurers are in a tricky scenario and must work together. By rolling and manipulating dice for special abilities and combos, you can be the one that guides them to victory. This group of 6 scenarios and 12 characters, makes for 396 unique combinations and tons of solo replayability to last you long after the holiday ends.

***

No matter what is in your wallet, these games are sure to satisfy a variety of gaming tastes this Valentine’s Day. With all base games being priced around $12, expansions adding only a few additional dollars to the overall cost, and free shipping on orders over $25, there is no better time than now to start, or expand, your Button Shy collection with some of these games that play well for two.

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Board Gaming · Review for One · Review for Two · Solo Gaming

Review for One and Two – Shadowrift

Thank you for checking review #80 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 provided for what had been planned as a deckbuilding month. With the medical time spent on my daughter since September, than plan went by the wayside.

***Second Note: I didn’t know there was an upcoming Kickstarter for an expansion, but once I became aware of it, I played the game a few extra times in order to get this review up during the campaign. You can find the Kickstarter link here, and at the bottom of this review: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shadowrift/shadowrift-b…

An overview of Shadowrift

Shadowrift is a board game designed by Jeremy Anderson that was published in 2012 by Game Night Productions and later rereleased with a 2nd Edition by Game Salute (this review is based on the 2nd Edition). The box states it plays 1-6 players in 45-120 minutes and has a BGG weight rating of 2.69.

Haven Town is facing total annihilation at the hands (and teeth) of a horde of monsters from beyond the Shadowrift.

You, the heroes, must band together to drive them back. To do this, you will need powerful spells, skills, attacks and loot. When the game begins, you are a basic hero; you can explore and fight. Luckily for you, Shadowrift is a deck-building game! You can buy new cards to add to your deck, cards that will define you as an adventurer and complement the strengths of your fellow heroes. Unlike other deck-builders, there is constant interaction with your fellow players as you figure out who will gain which benefit from the limited supply of townsfolk, offer their coin to help construct walls, and seek healing from anyone who’s learned such magic.

Shadowrift also features monsters that don’t merely sit waiting to be slain; if you leave them alone, they will rip Haven Town asunder. They’ll kill people, break walls, and kick your heroes in the face. Combat with them is intuitive (though frequently painful). For defeating a monster, heroes gain Heroism, a simple, consistent boost to their power that makes them better at anything they undertake. Since the monsters won’t stop coming until the last Shadowrift is sealed or the town has been built into a mighty fortress, you’ll need every boost you can take.

The second edition of Shadowrift features many improved mechanisms, including a revised system for how monsters choose who to attack (based on types of villagers, instead of specific people) and a new system for monster powers (making them much more dangerous). It also has a revised card layout and a great deal of new and improved artwork.

Differences for 1-2 players

For one player: Assuming one-handed play for solo, you have 8 Heroism rather than 1 per player, and during the Monsters Gain Power round they gain 3 rather than 1 per player. Additionally, the player gets two full turns after each Monster turn; however, the Town and Traveller lineups do change after each player turn. 2 Shadowrifts are added to the deck rather than 1 per player as well.

For two players: Monsters gain 2 power per round, 2 Shadowrifts are added to the monster deck, and 10 Heroism cards are used. Really, these are just based on # of players and in no way changes the rules of the game.

My Thoughts

This game was a novel approach to the deckbuilding genre long before it rose to extreme popularity. To put it into perspective, Dominion came out in 2008. This came out in 2012. It came out after Ascension (2010), Arctic Scavengers (2009), Eminent Domain (2011) and Thunderstone (2009), the same year as Legendary (2012), Fantastiqa (2012) and DC Comics Deck Building Game (2012), and before both Star Realms (2014) and Aeon’s End (2016). Compare it to the ones out before, and around the same time, and this one stands pretty tall in its uniqueness. Maybe only Fantastiqa can really compete in that sense. Shadowrift still provides a very unique deckbuilding game that can stand alongside those other names because there isn’t one of them that does the same thing as Shadowrift.

At first this game appears to be about fighting off hordes of monsters. Then it appears to be a town defense game. Yet it is both of those things while at the same time being neither of those things. Some games, when they try to be clever and incorporate too much, lose some polish in the final product. And maybe the 1st edition had some of that. But the 2nd edition of Shadowrift juggles the deckbuilding genre, multiple types of currency, hordes of monsters, and town defense in a way that I’ve never seen before. For an older game (relatively speaking), it is surprising to get such a breath of fresh air from this game’s approach.

There are a lot of combinations in the box. Yes, astronomical computations could be made. But essentially you get six monster factions to fight against using a set of 8 market cards of your choosing. Most people will probably play a monster faction a handful of times, realistically, before wanting to either move on or expand the game. But even there you have roughly 20-25 plays just in the base game alone. The nice thing with these market and monster-driven games is that they are easy enough to integrate expansions into without needing to really change any core rules.

There are three currencies in the game, and you start with just the most basic of them in your deck. You can spend 2 to buy coins, which are one-time use and can be spent in a variety of ways. The most difficult to obtain would be the magic symbols, which often appear on spells but then you get the decision, when it is in your hand, on whether to use it for the spell or for the magic symbol. This factors into what I’ll be alluding to shortly regarding the absence of deck thinning, making it essential to decide early how to fill your deck with cards. Nothing is more frustrating than always drawing the Seal you need to clear a Shadowrift and never having a Magic symbol to use its ability.

Another neat deckbuilding decision comes from the Epic symbols on some market cards. On a player round (players take turns simultaneously, meaning the order in which you play cards as a team can matter and so communicating as a team is essential to be as effective as possible) you cannot play more Epic cards than there are players. So in a solo game (one handed, of course) you can play only one. Draw a hand of 3 of them? Too bad (unless a specific villager is in the Town to let you play an extra one). These are often the most powerful effects, usually based around combat in some fashion. You definitely want them in your deck. But you don’t want JUST them in your deck. They add interesting decisions along the way as you play the game, something you’re going to hear me say more and more about Shadowrift.

The Town and the Travelers are what really gives this game flavor and makes it shine when compared to some of the other staples in the genre. At the start you have 10 villagers in the Town deck, each of which have some sort of effect when in the Town or an Aid ability the players can use (once) on their turn. There is also a slightly thicker Traveler deck, which will flip over two cards every round. Some of the cards are people you can buy into the town deck, usually costing Coins and/or Prowess (the generic resource). However, there are some red Infiltrator cards that, when flipped into the face-up Traveler spots, immediately go into the Town discard pile. Which means they get shuffled in the next time you need to shuffle the Town cards to refill those five cards (which happens every round). If you ever have 5 corpses and/or Infiltrator cards into the Town display at the start of the Heroes’ turn, you lose. This deck refills before the monsters go, who then go before the Heroes. Which means even getting out 3 of those red cards can signal danger if there are some monsters about to act and Kill some villagers. Lucky for you, most Infiltators have a cost you can pay to put them back on the bottom of the Traveler deck (which is also where dead townspeople go). It is a simple pair of mechanisms at work here, but they add such intriguing decisions: do you spend resources to buy cards for your deck, or do you add travelers to the Town, or do you try and remove those Infiltrators?

The monsters follow a very simple sequence once they enter play. Every town they advance one space and do what is printed for that space# on their card. Many times it is to Kill some symbol of villager in the Town display, which not only removed that Villager from the deck (it goes to the bottom of the Traveler deck), but it also adds a Corpse card in their place. Which not only thins out the useful cards in that Town deck, it also advances the odds of losing. Because you can see what monsters will do on the next space, you can plan ahead on which ones you NEED to focus on taking out. However, with just 2 attack in your starting 10 cards, you’ll need to “level up” your hero some before taking down the biggest of baddies…

We come now to the elephant in the room that I can already hear people begrudging this game over: there is no deck thinning mechanism. Yep, you read that right. There are ways to remove wounds and afflictions, both cards that enter your deck via monsters, but once you buy a card it is in there forever. Same with your starting ten cards. Bold move? Perhaps, and something no deckbuilder today would dream of doing. Yet it is slightly balanced from the Heroism cards you get from killing monsters, which not only counts as any 1 of the 3 resources, but also lets you draw a card immediately when you draw the card into your hand. There’s also some Might cards that are the cheap currency which allow you to draw a card, but remove themselves when used for anything but a keep-in-play trigger on an action card. Rather than begrude the game for what it lacks, this should be embraced as an interesting puzzle each round. Every card you buy makes it less likely you’ll draw every card in that deck, meaning it needs to carry its weight. Is that generic 1 melee damage worth adding to your deck, or should you just buy a coin instead for a future turn? This is one of the things that makes this game so darn interesting to puzzle out right now, because most deckbuilders you can take thinning for granted and race to remove those starter cards.

Getting the rifts closed is important in the game. With 1 or 2 players, you’re looking for two rifts that are added to a 20 card deck – one in the top 10 and one in the bottom 10. Another element of randomness, you see. However, you have a card in your starting deck that can place the top Monster card from the deck onto the bottom of that deck – and you can always see what the next card is coming off the deck (it is face-up) so you won’t accidentally throw that Shadowrift to the bottom. There are a few other cards that can help cycle those cards, too, letting you dig a little faster. I’ve seen both Shadowrifts only once, but I’m not a great player yet. It stinks that your rifts could be cards 1 and 22 off the deck, but it is great that you can help speed it along.

My first plays of the game felt like I was losing to the luck of random draw. And yes, that will always be a possibility. If you get a strong reaction toward knowing your game could end due to a bad draw, this one might leave a sour taste for you. However, the redeeming quality in here is that you can do things to give that Town deck better odds by buying new Travelers, eliminating Infiltrators as soon as you can, or preventing the monsters from Killing townsfolk. It is a lot to juggle, especially solo. I’ve heard the game is far easier at higher player counts, simply because you have more hands on deck to specialize and deal with the unique areas of the game. When playing solo, those resources are scarce enough that it makes every decision matter. And even when you are playing well, it still could end with 4 of the 5 cards flipping out red and the one monster that just got added happens to Kill the exact symbol that isn’t red. It can happen even if you only have 4 red cards in that deck. Early in the game, this doesn’t sting so bad. But if it happens when you’re nearing the end of a grueling, long fight…that could become table-flipping territory for some players.

Final Thoughts

When I looked at this game, my immediate thought was Aeon’s End plus Marvel Legendary. While it has some thematic and mechanical similarities to both, this game is nothing like either of those games, but is more like Legendary than it is like Aeon’s End.

What if I told you this game originally came out before either of those games?

Some older games do not age well. Others just take longer to gain popularity and hit their prime. I’m convinced that Shadowrift still has not “arrived” yet in terms of making waves, but it definitely should not be overlooked. This game provides a far more thematic approach to defending the town than you had in Aeon’s End. This game gives a greater challenge, and requires far less setup/teardown time than Marvel Legendary.

And boy, is this game a challenge. Not necessarily because of any heightened difficulty built into the game, but rather because you are trying to balance several things effectively. The obvious threat comes from the monster deck and the interactions brought about by the monsters traveling across the play area. Fighting them is essential, yet clogs the deck through wounds (usually) gained from battle. But if you overlook the travellers coming to town, you could find yourself filled with infiltrators and corpses and bring a premature end to your efforts, no matter how successful you are at fighting back the monstrous horde.

My first loss in the game was bitter. Not only was I doing a poor job at killing dragons, I was poorly managing the cards clogging up my hand and completely ignored the Town deck. It got overrun with bad cards, which meant sooner or later I’d see 5 dealt out to give me the loss. I felt like the game was impossibly hard and lacked good decisions. I tried it again against the same match, with the same market, and had much of the same results. Turns out the recommended starting game wasn’t a great starting one for winning solo.

But as I kept returning to the game and playing further, I started to get better at tracking my deck of cards and keeping an eye toward the Town deck. Have I perfected that balance? Hardly. In fact, I’d argue that I am quite a ways away from hitting that efficient stride after 6 plays of the game.

Which is something I really like about this game, because it makes you think in ways that other games in this genre don’t. Not only are there three resource types in the game, there are also two methods of attack. Resources can be spent to improve your deck, or to improve the Town deck, and sometimes to help cycle the monster deck. The game is more than just get buying power early to get attack power and then stop buying cards while you smack enemies around. The game is more than culling cards ruthlessly until you can play your entire hand for super turns every round.

And that is a breath of fresh air in a genre that, at times, can feel repetitive and stale. There’s a reason why Mystic Vale is my favorite deckbuilder: it takes the genre and does something fresh with it. Aeon’s End did the same thing with the breaches and not shuffling. But this game takes the deckbuilder concept and really makes you have to consider, every single turn, how your decisions will impact your long-term goals.

As a solo/co-op gamer, I hate high win percentages (looking at you, Sentinels of the Multiverse). My favorite game is sitting firmly at a 31% win rate after over a hundred plays, and that feels perfect. The wins in Shadowrift are coming for me eventually. And until then, I’ll enjoy having this hit the table as part of a rotation of games I definitely want to make sure I play every month.

As a reminder, the newest expansion is on Kickstarter right now. And yes, I am a backer. That should confirm things: I enjoy this game and it is in my collection to stay. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shadowrift/shadowrift-b…

Solo Gaming

December 2018’s Solo Challenges

I thought it might be fun to gain a little fun interaction here with some of my readers who may also be solo gamers. I’ve done a lot of solo gaming, and it isn’t likely to end anytime soon. So because I can’t always play at the same table with others doesn’t mean we cannot play “together” with each other, tackling the same quests or matchups in certain games.

My goal is to choose 5 games each month going forward that I want to play solitaire and invite everyone who is interested to join along. You can find this sorted into a Geeklist at this link.

Do I expect you to play all 5 games? Of course not, odds are there are games I own that you do not. Or expansions I own that you do not. However, if there is a game you own that is on here, I welcome you to try and end up with a better result than I get. My hope is to have time to replay them until I succeed at them all – but that might be a distant dream.

**Note: there is a 100% chance that the Lord of the Rings: LCG will appear on this list every month, usually with a few quests from a cycle that I want to play through completely. In this case, the Dreamchaser cycle, which means you can safely assume the next two months will likely have the next quests in the cycle appearing…

GAME #1

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

Objective

Complete the following quests:

sauron Voyage Across Belegaer
sauron Raid on the Grey Havens
sauron The Fate of Numenor

Bonus

Use a deck containing the hero Cirdan the Shipwright and use it for the entire cycle (essentially, not only use that deck this month but for the next two months).

GAME #2

Shadowrift

Objective

Defeat the Glacien enemy deck using the following market:

indigo Brawler
indigo Wall of Snow
indigo Lightning Daggers
indigo Staff of Icy Blows
indigo Fireball
indigo Blessed Smite
indigo Fist Flurry
indigo Frozen Ground

Bonus

Accomplish victory with no cards remaining in the Monster Power Area.

GAME #3

Obsession

Challenge

Defeat the Cornwallis Solitaire Opponent.

Bonus

Read a novel by one of the authors quoted throughout the Kickstarter campaign: Jane Austen or Anthony Trollope.

GAME #4

Maiden’s Quest

Challenge

Defeat King Shawl, using the Maiden Jenavieve.

Bonus

Defeat King Shawl before you finish your first trip through the 4th level.

GAME #5

Sentinels of the Multiverse

Challenge

Defeat Chairman Pike in the Pike Industrial Complex using these heroes:

 Omnitron X
 Absolute Zero
 Fanatic

Bonus

Accomplish victory using the base variants of all three heroes.

Board Gaming · Expansion Review · Review for One · Solo Gaming

Review for One – Hero Realms: The Ruin of Thandar

Thank you for checking review #76 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 review copy of this expansion was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Be sure to check out the Kickstarter for the new campaign and other content: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1172937197/hero-realms-…


An Overview of Hero Realms: The Ruin of Thandar

Hero Realms: The Ruin of Thandar is an expansion for Hero Realms and was designed by Robert Dougherty, Ben Chichoski, Daniel Mandel, and Darwin Kastle, and was published by White Wizard Games in 2017. The box states that it can play 1-5 players and has a 90 minute play time.

Choose your character, team up with your friends, and start your adventure! Gain experience points on each mission. Spend your experience points between missions to improve your character with awesome new skill and gear cards.

The 144-card The Ruin of Thandar Campaign Deck contains:

E Rules for solo and cooperative Campaign play
E Three different missions, each designed to be more challenging than the last!
E Skill and gear cards to improve and customize your character

My Thoughts

 There is a well-considered progression you can develop your characters on throughout this, and the sequential, campaigns. This one box has every character path and upgrade you’ll need for the five initial character classes you can use, allowing you to decide early on how you want to proceed and chart out where your character will ultimately end up. While this takes up a lot of the content in the box, this is also a nice benefit because it allows you to plan from the beginning for your progression.

 It is a small detail, but I like the decision to use oversized cards for the villains in the campaign. It helps the players to differentiate at a quick glance between the main target and the ancillary cards interfering with their objectives. Much like the oversized cards I use for Sentinels of the Multiverse, this simply adds a nice element that gives it better table presence and makes the ultimate target feel like a big deal.

 It goes without saying, but I appreciated this opening up solo play in a great way for Hero Realms. While I enjoyed a few matches of Star Realms against those little boss cards, this campaign provides a much meatier and more enjoyable experience for the solo gamer. This feels very much like a dungeon crawl-inspired implementation of a deck builder, coupled with some elements from games like Sentinels of the Multiverse. Does it do each aspect better than game X that specializes in that area? No, but by merging all three of those into one game it delivers a fun, fast package that is unique in itself and can satisfy a lot of what I want out of a gaming session.

 This campaign plays out almost like a choose-your-own-adventure book, which is really fun. What I mean by that is you still need to successfully defeat the first boss battle, but once you do there is a snippet or two to read in the book that lays out what happens next, and at the end of that you are faced with two choices on what to do next. Depending on which you choose you progress down a slightly different story arc and encounter a different boss battle as a result. And the third encounter simply blew my mind with the approach taken here. I now understand how there are 8 different oversized cards for 3 encounters.

 The rules of the bosses are relatively simple, using their constructed mini deck and consulting their card based on the colored symbol shown for activation abilities (in addition to whatever the card is). At least with a solo game, this keeps the pace of the game moving forward and makes the focus more on how I act and react to the boss rather than going through a convoluted system to operate them. It takes the bookkeeping and simplifies things in all the right ways.

 To prevent dumping of massive damage while ignoring everything else, the Master’s deck can drop champions into your play area or into its play area (elites go to its area, all others to the player’s area). If it has ANY champion in your play area, Guarded keyword or not, you cannot attack or target the Master or its champions in its area. Which really stinks when it drops a 9 Health enemy there early on in the game, but also makes for great interactions. And the clever ideas only get better as you advance in the campaign.

 While I like the character progression and how scarce the upgrade points are, there is one thing I am disappointed with: you can’t go outside of your class for upgrades. There aren’t generic ones to choose from or anything, they are all specific to that class and essentially replace the starting abilities with stronger versions that become slightly specialized. By choosing Cleric, I’ll never be able to upgrade into dealing damage even if I wanted to for those slots. It makes sense, of course, but I’ve found that some of the choices to upgrade toward are not really as suited for solo play and therefore making the decisions easier on which path to take.

 I’ve said it before about Sentinels and I’ll say it as well on this game: the boss battles feel too easy at times. I went 3/3 on my campaign as a cleric, and while I had fun there was never a point where I was almost dead. The final encounter had about 2 turns where I was getting hit hard but then my deck’s engine finally was set and I took about 5 points of damage for the rest of the fight while dropping it by over 50 in those turns.

 Tied with the above, the flipping mechanic is clever but it only happened on the 3rd encounter. Getting some deck control on the Master via the Discard ability felt overly powerful, allowing me to cycle the Mastery cards to the bottom. In the solo match, the decks never depleted and so I was always able to delay the inevitable. That changed in the 3rd one, but by the time the final battle flipped, I was gearing up to be in control.

Final Thoughts

This version of Hero Realms is exactly what I want out of the game. For a base game with such a small buy-in, this experience takes that initial package and enhances it in clever ways. Sadly, I don’t think my wife will ever want to experience it (she hates co-op games) but the nice thing is that there’s still the regular Hero Realms I can enjoy with her. But this is the essential expansion for anyone who wants solo play, or who enjoys the feeling of character progression and big boss battles.

The story is simply told, and unravels in expected but exciting ways. There aren’t really any curveballs, although the added story when a card flipped out in the 3rd encounter was pretty cool. It came too late to really make an impact on the game, but it was a neat touch. But I still like the linear story with the small branches of possibilities. The boss fights all felt unique, and I have only faced half the cards in that box.

I’m a fan of being able to have the full information of how each class can upgrade in the overall campaign, yet it feels wasteful since the majority of this box is the cards used to upgrade the five decks. The encounter cards are a small fraction of what is in the box, and in a solo game you only use 1 of the 13 “starter” cards when constructing those decks.

In spite of this, I definitely feel like this is a great expansion experience for an already enjoyable game. There is plenty of replay value in here, plus the challenge of completing it with all five different classes in existence. Even if White Wizard Games never released a 2nd Campaign box, there would still be enough in here to make it worth the price to pick up this box unless you hate cooperative games AND never play solo games.

However, this little box helped make Hero Realms one of my Top 10 solo games this year and I look forward to seeing the story continue in the upcoming The Lost Village box (something I still wish had been available at Gen Con, as I purchased a ticket to play it but the event was cancelled prior to Gen Con)

Be sure to check out the campaign running on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1172937197/hero-realms-…

Board Gaming · Interview · Solo Gaming · Solo Month

Interview with Carla Kopp from Weird Giraffe Games

You may have noticed the sharp decline in daily posts to close out the month. It was ambitious to try and do a post per day. Early on, it was nice because I had gotten 3-4 posts ahead in the queue and a decent number of posts were dependent upon other people providing most of the content via interviews, features, etc. And then the burnout hit. It hit hard. Content creator friends know what I’m talking about. I needed to separate for a short time and get some Lord of the Rings-based solo gaming to reset myself. Let’s just say I’ll never try a post-per-day idea again, no matter how fun that was.

Today I am closing out the month with the final interview, this time with the talented Carla Kopp from Weird Giraffe Games. I had the pleasure of working with her a little on the solo mode for Stellar Leap, playtesting it and providing some feedback along the way. I was beyond impressed with the execution in the solo mode for Fire in the Library. I’ve reviewed the solo experience for both, based on prototypes, previously.

But enough about me. Let’s let Carla take the reins and do the talking.

***

1)Let’s start with some background history. How did Weird Giraffe Games come about? Where did you get the idea for your first game, Super Hack Override?

Weird Giraffe Games came around mostly due to us having the idea of Super Hack Override. The idea for that came from attending Dragon Con. During the convention, we spent a lot of time waiting in lines and a friend I was with brought Love Letter. I figured out a way to make Love Letter easier to play while standing in line, by playing your discards face out instead of in a discard pile. I had some free time while waiting for another panel to start and had decided to go to a panel on How to Design a Board Game. One of the main points in the panel was that anyone can make a board game, just start with note cards!

On the way home from the convention, I had that idea that you just need notecards to create a board game and that there should be more games for playing while standing in line and so my friends and I brainstormed what this game would be. Afterwards, I took all the notes from the car ride, got some notecards, and started making cards. The first playtest worked surprisingly well, I wanted to keep going and making the game better, so eventually Weird Giraffe Games was formed!

 

2)What did you learn from that first game design/Kickstarter that you implemented when designing and running the campaign for Stellar Leap?

One of the major things I learned from the Super Hack Override campaign was to participate in interviews. I participated in a few for Super Hack Override after the campaign started, but I decided to make more of an effort to do so with Stellar Leap. I further learned in the Stellar Leap campaign that I should try to organize all the interviews before the campaign and did that with Fire in the Library and ended up with more interviews for Fire in the Library than for either of my previous two campaigns and most of them happened before the campaign even began, which meant I was able to focus a lot more on that campaign than I had with my previous ones.

I also learned about the power of conventions, as I had gone to Gen Con and met a number of great people right before the Super Hack Override campaign. I decided to try and attend more conventions, as they’re great for meeting people and creating relationships that can last years.

3)Your last two games, Stellar Leap and Fire in the Library, both have solo modes included in the game. What made you decide to design a way to play each of these solo?

My first Kickstarter was Super Hack Override and during that Kickstarter, I was asked about making a solo version of the game. Before this, as I hadn’t really known much about solo games. I told the backer that I would try to design a solo variant for Super Hack Override, but I didn’t know where to start so I did some research on how different solo variants worked. With this research, I designed a solo variant for Stellar Leap and was surprised by just how well it turned out! I did get a lot of help from you with refining and making the solo variant a lot better than it otherwise would have been. After seeing a positive response from both reviewers and backers to Stellar Leap’s solo variant, it seemed natural to try and add a solo variant to Fire in the Library, as well. I’ve actually made it one of my company goals to have a solo variant with every game that we release that can have a good solo variant. It’s not only good from a business stand point, but also a fun design challenge.

 4)Which of the two was the more challenging solo mode to design? What made it difficult?

Stellar Leap was by far harder to design, mostly because it was my first time designing a solo variant and I didn’t have a lot of experience with solo games, so I had to do a lot of research and a lot of talking to others. It wasn’t too difficult to design, but it did require some iteration as I learned as I iterated what a good solo variant was. I went with an AI player and I knew that it should be simple and fast to play the AI turn, but one thing I didn’t know was that it would be better to not have the AI player’s score easily known. Stellar Leap is a 4X game and having the score be somewhat easy to calculate meant that you might take an extra 20 seconds per turn to see who was winning, which definitely doesn’t add to the fun.

I learned a lot with the design and development of the solo variant for Stellar Leap and I was able to apply that to the design of the Fire in the Library solo variants and they came together a lot faster.

 5)Now that you’ve done those games and added solo play, have you considered going back to Super Hack Override and making that have solo play? How do you envision that might function?

Definitely! It’s been one of my goals from the beginning. I think I’d have either an AI player or a race to get to a certain number of points within a certain number of turns. For the AI, I think I’d have it be simple and have the AI draw two cards and play one, based on how many points the other player has.

6) What are the next projects we can look forward to from Weird Giraffe Games? Get us excited about what comes next!

I’m really excited about a number of projects! I have a few of my own designs that are currently in progress. First is Recursive, which is a code learning game about the coding concept of Recursion. It has both cooperative and competitive game modes and will hopefully teach real coding concepts while also being a fun, puzzle-y game. The Fire in the Library Animal Expansion is also on it’s way to being a great addition to the base game, with having a number of additional tools to increase strategy and replayability and a new event system that changes up gameplay after specific tokens are drawn. Another game that is in the works is a pick up and deliver game based on the gondolas in Venice.

In the more near future, we also have Totemic, which is a set collection rondel based movement game about building totem poles. Each totem has two different types which are used for set collection, an ability, and a number of victory points, so you have many options for how to choose the totem pole that you create.

We have a few more games and partnerships in the works that I can’t reveal quite yet, but there’s a lot more to come from Weird Giraffe Games!

 7)Finally, where can people go to find out more about your games, or to find you on social media, etc?

Emailcontact@weirdgiraffegames.com

FacebookWeird Giraffe Games

Twitter@WeirdGiraffes

InstagramWeird Giraffe Games

KickstarterWeird Giraffe Games

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 · Interview · Solo Gaming · Solo Month

Interview with Todd Sanders, designer of Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden

 

I was fortunate enough to corner Todd Sanders and, after much begging and pleading, he was gracious enough to answer a few questions before disappearing back into his garden.

In all seriousness, Todd was a fantastic candidate for the interview and was really awesome to interact with. If you haven’t already, go check out Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden on Kickstarter!

***

  1. You’ve been designing board games for many years now. How did you get started in game design and tell us about the first game you completed?

I began by redesigning older games and I’m most known for my re-visions of Barbarian Prince (over 3000 downloads on BoardGameGeek.com) and for Hammer of Thor. Both of these were originally released in the early 1980s, long before computers or better printing techniques and there is a mystique about them, but both are long out of print and therefore inaccessible to most players.

Barbarian Prince is one a lot of people wish would be reprinted. You play a barbarian trying to find gold to save your kingdom, wandering a map of various terrain types, rolling dice to find events and encounters on various tables. It combines aspects of war-games, RPGs and Choose Your Own Adventure style games. I completely redesigned the entire map, created new rule and events books and a series of player sheets and counters to give the game a better scope. It took me a couple of months to complete but I think the changes make it feel more like a modern game.

Hammer of Thor is a very strange game from around ‘83 that can apparently support between 1 and 65 players, although 1 or 2 players is probably best. You play viking gods and visit locations throughout the nine realms encountering various types of creatures and humans. You combat these beings and in turn can make them part of your clan. The game mainly uses cards (which were originally badly printed on construction paper) and a large map of Yggdrasil, the world tree of viking myth. My work included redesigning (and correcting the errors of) over 720 cards, designing 1100 counters and I updated/redrew the map. On top of this I completely rewrote the rulebook to remove a huge number of errors in the original text and updated the language for modern boardgamers.
It was over 6 months work and I really didn’t design anything for many months afterwards because the task left me exhausted.

For both games what appealed to me was the challenge of taking older games and giving them a fresh modern look. As a graphic designer I am attracted to projects where a design overhaul can give a value and prominence to games in our history that are overlooked by many. For Barbarian Prince I also wanted a copy to play and this was a fun way for me to make that happen.

From there I entered several of the designer contests that the Print and Play community sponsors and slowly began learning to process of design games. There are several of these contests every year on BGG. The Solitaire PnP contest (every summer), the PnP Wargame contest, the 18 card contest, and the Mint Tin contest where all components must fit inside of an Altoids tin. In the past there have also been game contests with constraints like only using dice, fitting the game on a single sheet of paper, or only being able to use 9 cards.

My first true, and complex, game was Aether Captains which used dice as sections of a steampunk zeppelin war ship. It was a solo game that eventually had a number of expansions and then a whole series of other games within the same narrative universe. It was not a game really about rolling dice (though D12s are involved in combat) but in simulating sections of ships where you would rotate the dice to show damage, like a very slow movie

  1. Many of your game designs are soloable games and play in the 10-30 minute range. Is that a design sweet spot for you? What about those two criteria appeal to you as a designer?

Yes I enjoy this niche I have found myself in – solo games that play quickly. It is an avenue of interest because it affords me the ability to combine really rich graphics and narratives with the structure of game play. I like to design AI systems that are an aggregate of small mechanics which, when added up, simulate the logic and/or randomness of a real player.

  1. It is also worth noting that you are a frequent participant in the game design contests run here on BGG. What is your favorite thing about participating in these contests?

I mostly participate in the Solo Game contest now because that one is near and dear to me and I do not have as much time as I once did (Many of my games are now being published and I am the graphic designer on those as well as the game designer and it takes a lot of time to design and prepare the files to be printed)

My favorite thing is the community of course. Dedicated designers helping each other with advice and playtests and sharing artwork and such. We are a strong community of helpful people.

  1. During those design contests, how does the feedback you get from playtesters help shape the final product of a game? Is there a game, in particular, that really evolved because of that contest feedback?

I would say that Pulp Detective is the game which has benefitted most from playtesters. That game began as an 18 card contest entry (18 cards, no dice or any markers) and has evolved into its current form of 60 cards, an expansion, 7 dice and a handful of counters. The game had a good structure to it but was too random because I was trying to do too much with only 18 cards. Playtesters stuck with me and helped expand the concept and provide ideas to build on.

  1. If a solo player has never played a Todd Sanders game before, which of your games would you recommend they look at, and what about those might interest the gamer?

My strongest solo game and one that is the most fun is Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden which will be on Kickstarter this month but the PNP version is still available. Others I would suggest are The Draugr and Six Sons of the Sultan which do not take much to craft (Six Sons of the Sultan can in fact be printed as a single page). My Maiden in the Forest game which only uses 18 cards is also a favorite of people who have tried my games out . It takes 10 minutes to set up and play but it tough to beat.

  1. Some of your games, such as Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden and The Draugr, seem to get mentioned frequently by solo PnP gamers. What games that you’ve designed surprised you in how well they’ve been received? Are there any that haven’t been played or talked about often that we should be sure to check out?

I think Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden was a surprise. Initially to me because of how quickly the game came together when designing it and how robust the narrative and humor became. When I presented it on my design forum there was a lot of early and strong interest.

I think one slightly more neglected is The Tain which I feel is one of the best 2 player games I have designed. It is a wargame without a hex map, without counters and one man against an army. I put a lot of new ideas into that game and think it is very aesthetically appealing.

  1. I understand the files for The Court of Xiang Chi has just become available again for download, which is something that I’ve seen some excitement over. Tell me a little bit about that game.

This was another game that came together quickly and was inspired by all the great artwork I found of Kabuki theater costumes. It is a game about adjacencies. You place cards in a grid, often on top of previously placed cards. Card actions trigger based on other cards showing in the grid. There is a loose auction mechanic for buying cards from the center row and some Daemons to fight.

  1. You just recently had a game fund on Kickstarter: Pulp Detective. Tell us a little bit about that game. Did you design the solo aspect first, or the 2-player aspect? How does the solo experience differ from the 2-player experience?

The solo game has a long long history (over 2 years in development) The game was originally designed for an 18 card contest and eventually grew well beyond that. At its heart it is a dice management game with the goal of finding the criminal who has committed a heinous crime. There are a number of detectives, criminals and sidekicks included so there are lots of different matchups of actions available.

My publisher – Alban Viard of Alban Viard Game Studios- requested the two player version and we eventually created both a cooperative and a competitive option, as well as 4 Police Inspectors to choose from as characters

  1. I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to simply admire the artwork that you put into your games. Do you design a game around the artwork/theme you have in mind, or design the art after you’ve hammered down the mechanics and theme of a game?

I tend to work on both the structure and mechanics of the game while doing the artwork. It’s a very organic process and both elements grow together. I am not an ‘artist’ artist, meaning I don’t really draw or illustrate anything by hand ever, I do all my work on the computer using InDesign and Photoshop, often using those applications as you would Adobe Illustrator (but I don’t own a copy of that).

Early on I tended to do redesigns of earlier games. In taking apart another designer’s work and re-visioning it, you learn the inner workings of the mechanics and how the game is put together, thereby learning something about the design process. I suppose the best thing I have learned is to be open with my work and let people interact with it as it is being designed. Everyone has different experiences and knowledge. Their input can only make a game stronger, especially since one tends to design in a bubble so you can quickly convince yourself that something works. This is because in your head it does, but you often find that once you write rules other people find holes in this logic as you didn’t impart that understanding within the framework of the game itself.

  1. Finally, what advice would you give to someone wanting to someday design a solo game?

Read rule sets. Download as many as you can from BGG and learn how designers structure their games and how they explain them in the rules they write.

  1. Thank you for your time! Where can people find out more about what you’re working on and find you online?

Twitter is probably the best place – I am @lackriver over there

And my design forum on BGG – https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/617727/todd-sanders-current-projects

And lastly my complete list of all games I have designed or re-designed – https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/65610/games-ive-re-designed-or-created