Solo Gaming · Solo Month

Coming Soon: Spring of Solitaire

Last year I did something new with a solo-focused month during the spring. It was successful far beyond anything I had ever imagined, making a post every day during that entire month, but it was equally exhausting and rewarding. My intent was to revisit that Solo Month again this year, sometime in the late spring or early summer, and a few weeks ago I started making plans and reaching out to some publishers in the hope of securing a few key “dream” solitaire games. It quickly became clear that I was on a path to setting myself up for a very, very busy month packed full of posts…something I didn’t want to repeat.

Yet there are so many excellent games that deserve coverage, both currently in my collection and ones I’d love to try.

And thus the Spring of Solitaire was born. I know, it isn’t quite Spring yet. And yes, there will likely still be some 2-player coverage along the way. But I am going to shift the majority of my focus to solo-based coverage through the end of June. Why now? Because our life still hasn’t gotten back to a “normal” yet here, meaning we just aren’t playing as many games together. Which means I play more games solo at the moment, and it also means that when I do get to play a game with my wife I want it to be one we want to play instead of a review copy we feel obligated to play. So I’m excited to kick off this multi-month series…and just look at this confirmed lineup of games that are in the pipeline for this series, all of which will get some content coverage:

The City of Kings
Gloom of Kilforth
1066, Tears to Many Mothers
At the Gates of Loyang
ELO Darkness
Mint Works
Roll Player
Pulp Detective
Robin Hood: Hero of the People
Twin Stars II
Chain Mail
Agricola, Master of Britain
Charlemagne, Master of Europe
Raiders of the North Sea

And some excellent games from my own collection that I’m hoping to also get to should time allow:

Oh My Goods!
Circle the Wagons
Glass Road
Sentinels of the Multiverse: Oblivaeon Expansion
Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Forge War
Star Wars: The Card Game (LCG)
Core Worlds

And there are still about a dozen games I’m waiting to hear back on. I am hoping a few of them are able to be secured and worked into the rotation for the Spring of Solitaire.

So what sort of content can you expect to see this Spring?

  • Unboxing videos of most of the review copy games after they arrive. The first went live late last night, showing off Roll Player by Thunderworks Games. A few I already have in my possession and have been opened previously, so there won’t be a video for The City of Kings, At the Gates of Loyang, Chain Mail, Chai, or the games already in my collection.
  • First impression videos for all of the games listed, even those in my collection because I’ve played those solo only one, if I’ve played them at all solo. Look for videos on At the Gates of Loyang and The City of Kings to be the first ones popping up, as I am currently getting both of them to the table.
  • Full written reviews of the game as a solo experience. This is the content you’ve come to know and expect from my blog (if you’ve been following along). At the Gates of Loyang is very likely to be the first one getting a full review. Beyond that, I can’t make promises as to what will appear when but they will hopefully all be on here eventually.
  • Bonus posts to mention a few of the games that I’m excited to try solo that I was unable to secure a review copy for this series. After all, I’m still excited about the prospect of those games as a solo gamer.
  • Bonus post to cover my Top 25 Solo Games…which will likely be the post to close us out come the end of the Spring. That number may increase beyond 25, too, depending on how ambitious I feel when the time comes.
  • Kickstarter alerts on anything you may be interested in checking out. Note that coverage does not mean endorsement, but in an industry where there are so many Kickstarter campaigns, it can be really easy to miss ones that you might be interested in backing. As always, only you can decide if a game is worth backing for your personal playstyle.

So that brings me toward the end here. I’m going to close out with the first of the Kickstarter alerts for the Shadows of Kilforth campaign. I’ll be covering their first game, Gloom of Kilforth, during Solo Month but the sequel is currently running and smashing stretch goals. Check out the amazing artwork that has become the trademark of all Hall or Nothing Productions games!

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?

FacebookWeird Giraffe Games


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:

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

Solo Month

Low Player Count on Solo Gaming

This post was to be an interview with at least one of the guys from Low Player Count, but I’m having to call an audible here. The truth is, there is already some great content for your ears that has been produced by these three guys.

For what it’s worth, they are easily in my Top 3 podcasts that I listen to. I always find their discussions to be thoughtful, enjoyable, and insightful. Check them out, and if you’re looking for some solo-based listening I’d recommend:

Episode 3 – High Score vs. Objective

Episode 20 – Our Top 5 Solo Games

Episode 39 – The Solo Gamer Stigma

Episode 47 – The Worst Things About Solitaire Gaming

If You Buy One Game – Finale: 1-2 Player Games

Episode 66 – Are Solo Games Just Puzzles?

Travis Gets Heavy – Solo Uwe Day

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 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 –

And lastly my complete list of all games I have designed or re-designed –

Board Gaming · Solo Gaming · Solo Month

Designer Spotlight: Todd Sanders

In the world of solo PnP board games, few designers are as well-known as Todd Sanders. He has designed dozens of games, most of which can be played solo. His designs are varied in approach, yet they all share one other common feature: they are raved about by the solo PnP community at large. I would be remiss to feature solo designers and to not bring Mr. Sanders into the spotlight, so here is a brief coverage on a few of the games he has designed for solo play, all of which you can download and print over on BGG.

Stay tuned tomorrow for an interview with Todd Sanders, where he talks a little about his design process, why he designs solo games, and what the community of solo PnP gamers means to him.


  • Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden
    • Published in 2016
    • 1 Player
    • 10-20 Minutes
    • Description:
      • Each year Vernon Cabbagehead, (Mr. Cabbagehead to his friends), wants to be left in peace to grow his award winning vegetable garden for the annual Garden Club contest. However, his tedious neighboirs tend to interfere when he is away, and frequently drop by to help themselves to the garden produce. Can Mr. Cabbagehead create a beautiful garden and finally win the blue ribbon?In Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden, Vegetable cards are drafted and placed in the garden plot, a grid of six cards by three cards. Depending on which cards are selected, one of the tedious neighbours may interfere with the garden in a variety of ways.

        Players must be careful in their choice of Vegetable to plant, its position in the garden, and in maintaining their supply of invaluable bees, which give Mr. Cabbagehead more flexibility in planting.

        Once all cards have been drawn the game is over and the Garden Club committee visits to evaluate Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden. The number and position of Vegetables matter and players must be creative in developing a garden that is both pleasing to the eye and plentiful in Vegetables.

        Originally released in a Print & Play version with 4 Neighbours, the published deluxe edition of Mr. Cabbagehead adds more Neigbours, more variety in scoring, and a streamlined set of rules that includes a fixed garden plot grid variant. More importantly, the published version includes rules for 2 players.

    • Rules Link:


  • Shadows Upon Lassadar
    • Published in 2011
    • 1 Player
    • 30 Minutes
    • Description:
      • The land is corrupted. The silent Grayking, brooding upon his throne in the Tower of Ash, is a far-reaching shadow upon Lassadar. We feel his presence in each of our days. His servants grow bold, stealing into our cities, inhabiting the alleys and dark places of our streets. They jeer at us from our mirrors, shaming our reflections.The books of the Council of Wardens, handed down to us across the years, say that the era of broken barriers is upon us. Omens tell us, by winter, the Grayking will break through the few defenses we have remaining, cross to Lassadar, and our lands will fall to despair.

        We few who are left, who remember the Grayking’s original imprisonment across the Barrier Planes, struggle to keep his power from growing further, but we have little time and far too few disciples. You are young but have proven to hold the strength of our teaching inside you. We have trained you in the arcane arts of ice, oak and flint magic and have taught you those powers are capricious and can damage your spirit if relied upon too much. We wish we had more time to train you further. We do not.

        Go now into the wider world, with our blessings, and seek a means to defeat the Grayking. Find the three Warding Keys stolen by his servants and re-lock the gates to force him back behind the Barrier Planes forever. Our agents, spread thinly across places still untouched in Lassadar, will aid you in your quest as best they can.

        Go now, and save us all……

        Shadows Upon Lassadar is a solitaire fantasy quest game. You play a young magic adept who has been charged with finding three lost keys to lock the gates between the Barrier Plains and prevent the Grayking from reaching the world of Lassadar. You will journey to different cities using a deck of cards; other cards list spells you learn during the game. Magic in Lassadar is, however, a two edged sword and if you use powerful spells you may end up corrupting your own spirit in the process and lose the game. Three specific cards lead to expanded battle maps where you fight the Grayking’s servants for possession of the keys. The game uses a variety of AI mechanics to simulate an enemy that learns and adapts as the game progresses.

        Needed to play:
        the 48 game cards + the 4 last battle cards
        9 six sided dice
        25 black eurocubes
        and 3 eurocubes: one each in red, blue and yellow.

        This Print and Play game can be assembled as a deck of cards or as cards and a series of mini game boards.

        There are several types of quests in the game that will need to be completed. These quests are encountered by turning over cards from the draw deck:

        City Quest cards showing the name of the city you’ve journeyed to, win and loss table reference icons and event instructions for the battle in that city. As you win battles in these cities you will remove these cards from the game. If you lose a battle in this city you will place this card on the Quest discard pile to be shuffled back into the game. Dice are rolled to determine the outcome of these battles.

        Council of Wardens Quest cards always have a white top. Their event instructions will help you gain spells and refresh your Mana and Spirit. These cards will always be placed on the Quest discard pile to be shuffled back into the game.

        Three Warding City Quest cards, each with a colored band and a numbered Warding Key icon across the bottom will signal when you use the Expanded Battle Maps (wargame hexmap style). On the Expanded Battle Maps you will encounter AI driven servants of the Grayking. Dice are rolled to determine the outcome of these battles. As you win the battles in these cities, and gain the Warding Keys, you will remove these cards from the game. If you lose a battle in this city you will place this card on the Quest discard pile, to be shuffled back into the game.

        Winning or losing the game:

        Draw cards one by one working your way through the quest. If you gain each of the 3 Warding keys you may cast the Oaken Spell: Barrier Lock and lock the gates of the Barrier Plains. The Grayking is instantly drawn back to the Tower of Ash and you have saved Lassadar and won the game.

        If at any time your Spirit falls below [1] on the Character Stats card, or if the Grayking reaches Lassadar on the Progress Track, you have lost the game.

        2nd place in the August 2011 Solitaire Print and Play contest
        and was also awarded Best Art, Best AI and Best Horror Game

        Tied for 1st place in The 2011 Print ‘n Play Awards for Best Solitaire Game

        2012 Golden Geek Awards Nominee

    • Rules link:


  • The Draugr
    • Published in 2014
    • 1 Player
    • 20 Minutes
    • Description:
      • The Draugr, reanimated dead imbued with magical powers, have come to the region of Trøndelag seeking to corrupt the town of Stjørdal. Only you, a lone revenant hunter, can protect the town and slay they who walk again.Armed with limited supply of holy water and iron spikes you enter the town square and prepare for the coming onslaught.

        The Draugr is a solitaire game playing in about 20 minutes.

        To Win:
        You must slay 4 of the 6 Draugr. If at anytime during Phase 1 all 7 Townspeople, or more than 7 of the cards (a combination of Townspeople and Locations) are corrupted you lose.

        Playing the Game:
        The game is played in rounds consisting of two phases: Corruption and Hunt.

        Phase 1 – Corruption
        Roll the six-sided die once to see which Draugr will hold sway over Stjørdal for the round and will corrupt Locations and Townspeople in the row they are adjacent to, matching the die face to the image on a Draugr Card.

        Roll the die a second time and look at the symbol in the upper left corner of the die. Place a Corruption Marker on each card in that Draugr’s row with the matching Corruption Sigil. (See the section on the Shepherdess for protection from this rule.)

        If a Townsperson card has been turned over you do not need to place additional Corruption Markers on the card.

        Phase 2 – The Hunt
        You must now move your player marker up to two adjacent cards in distance (The Nunnery and Foundry are the only two cards to supersede this rule). All movement is orthogonal (horizontally and vertically).

        Once you have finished moving you may choose a Special Action of that Townsperson or Location. Some cards have only 1 Special Action, some allow for a choice between 2 Special Actions. You do not have to choose a Special Action if you do not wish to.

        If you land on a Townsperson card that has been turned over, no Special Action can be chosen.

        If a Special Action allows you to place Holy Water or Iron Markers on a Draugr, take one from your supply on the Town Square card and place it on a Draugr of your choice. If you match the number of markers as indicated in the upper left of the Draugr card, that Draugr is slain and removed from the game. Return all Holy Water and Iron Markers on that Draugr to your supply.

        Once a Draugr is slain and their card removed, slide one of the adjacent Draugr cards up or down so that is partially spans either 2 rows (or if 2 Draugr have been slain, 3 rows). The Draugr now holds sway over 10 (or 15) cards for rolls during the Corruption Phase. If you slay all 3 Draugr on one side, no further Draugr are moved to replace those slain.

        Game End:
        If you are able to slay 4 of the 6 Draugr you are successful and the other Draugr are forced to flee. If at anytime during Phase 1 all the Townspeople, or more than 7 of the cards (a combination of Townspeople and Locations) are corrupted you lose.

    • Rules Link:


  • Aether Captains
    • Published in 2010
    • 1-6 Players
    • 30-60 Minutes
    • Description:
      • Aether Captains is a steampunk themed, scenario-based, asymmetric board game for 1-6 players.One player commands the mighty naval zeppelins of the Grand Compact: Dauntless and Dominion. As Commander, you have been tasked by the Emperor to defend the Grand Compact and Arkady from the merciless sky pirates. With your staunch crew of steam welders, engineers, navigators and gunners, you fly with honor to confront the pirates threatening Arkady.

        The remaining players command waves of attacking sky pirates, each with their own unique objectives which may pit them against any player when it results in the greatest profit for themselves. Infamous and feared, you have risen through the cutthroat cadres to become a War Captain. You swear to never rest until you control the skies and the Grand Compact falls!

    • Rules Link:


  • The Seeker in the Forest of Wyr
    • Published in 2014
    • 1 Player
    • 20 Minutes
    • Description:
      • In ancient days the Seeker, guardian of the Metsäsuomalaiset people and endowed with five magical objects, journeyed within the Forest of Wyr, one with the natural world. The Seeker attracted the company of the Menninkäinen and Keiju, kindly though capricious forest spirits, while protecting those under his care from evil pursuits of the Ajatar.You are this Seeker, bound to the wood and the land.

        Beware though, the Forest of Wyr is large and its paths many. Its elder trees can confuse the unwary and cause them
        to lose their way.

        The Seeker in the Forest of Wyr is a solitaire game lasting about 20 minutes. It needs only the deck of game cards, no dice or eurocubes required.

        To Win:
        The goal of the game is to finish one of six Quests randomly chosen from the Quest Deck at the start of the game.

        During each turn of the game you will choose one of the two bottommost row’s Stage Cards – your Seeker’s Path. Two of the goals (see next page) may make this choice for you. You must choose the card before you draw any cards to your hand.

        Each Stage Card on the Seeker’s Path has a number in the upper left representing the Amount of Time you must take to overcome the card with the Abilities you have in your hand. The pointer icon next to the number shows whether you must have a total Abilities Number either great than or exactly one less than the Amount of Time needed.

        From the cards in your hand, discard cards to your Seeker Deck’s discard pile, adding the Abilities Numbers in the upper left. of those you discard, to overcome the Stage Card you chose on the Seeker’s Path. Be sure when discarding cards to keep their current orientation when placing them on the discard pile (i.e. the current Abilities Numbers should be oriented upward when placed face down on the discard pile.)

        The Magical Objects in your hand of cards can grant you special powers during your turn. You can play a Magical Object at any time during your turn. Discard them when you use their powers.

        If you are able to overcome the Stage Card it will either be removed from the game, temporarily grant you a temporary Abilities bonus or penalty, be set in a special pile, or be added to your discard pile depending on the card.

        End of the Game:
        When the Quest Card is drawn from the Stage Deck’s draw pile, it is added to the Seeker’s Path and play continues normally in its final phase.

        When the Quest Card reaches the bottommost row of the Seeker’s Path (The Quest Card always has the highest Initiative Number when deciding what cards to move at the end of a turn) the game ends.

        2014 Solitaire Print and Play Contest Awards

        Best Artwork
        First Place

        Best Medium Sized Game
        Second Place

        Best Written Rules
        Second Place (Tied)

        Most Innovative Mechanic
        Second Place (Tied)

    • Rules Link:


  • The Maiden in the Forest
    • Published in 2015
    • 1 Player
    • 10 Minutes
    • Description:
      • Long ago a maiden mage was trapped in an enchanted forest ring. Through her cunning, and with the help of four magic objects, she attempts to escape her fate.This is an 18 card solitaire game using only cards, no other components needed. The rules are contained within the 18 cards.

        The object of the game is to rotate, and then turn over, each of the twelve Tree Cards from their blooming to dormant side. If you are able to do this before the end of the twelve clock cycles of Day and Night you shall win your freedom.

        To begin, shuffle the twelve Tree Cards and place them in a ring like a clock face. All cards should have their blooming side revealed and the trunks should point towards the center of the ring. Each card also shows one of four objects. Place the Maiden Card inside the ring at the 12 o’clock position. Set the four Object Cards to one side.

        Each Day you will perform two actions:

        1. Shuffle the four Object Cards and place them face down in a pile. Draw the top card and view the object shown therein. All Tree Cards with this object may not be touched by the player during this cycle of Day and Night.

        2. Gather the remaining three Object Cards to your hand and use their actions to move, that is to … swap … the positions of the Tree Cards allowed to be touched, keeping their current orientations. You may use these actions in any order and may use none, one, two or all three of the actions as you choose to.

        Each Night you perform two actions:

        1. You may now rotate blossoming Tree Cards with matching colors or matching objects that you are allowed to touch this Night. Cards are rotated so that their trunks point outward from the ring. Cards previous rotated can then be turned over so that their dormant side is showing.

        Cards must be rotated (either clockwise or counter-clockwise) or turned over to their dormant side in accordance with the three patterns on the other side of this card. You may use each of the patterns only once during this Night but you may use them in any order you choose.

        2. Move the Maiden Card one position in the ring clockwise to signal the end of this Day and Night and the beginning of a new turn.

        If you are able to turn each of the twelve Tree Cards over to their dormant side before the end of twelve clock cycles of Day and Night you shall win your freedom.

    • Rules Link:


  • Bibliogamo
    • Published in 2011
    • 1 Player
    • 20 Minutes
    • Description:
      • Bibliogamo is a solitaire game of book production and libraries. In this game you will play the role of a publisher in the city of Bibliogamo. Using cards to hire artisans, you will put them to work in six city tower workshops, each devoted to a different kind of book. The Chief Librarian of the City will, in turn, tour the city buying books at what he considers their proper value. Prestige Collection cards generate victory points depending on how well you can fulfill the requirements of the Chief Librarian’s collection.Needed to play: the game board showing the city of Bibliogamo, the 47 Artisan cards, the 7 Prestige Collection cards, 26 black eurocubes representing your Artisans, and 16 red eurocubes to act as track markers in the game. Additionally you’ll need one pawn to represent the Librarian.

        Win: The game is over when the Time Track eurocube reaches [40] and you complete your turn. For each book you produce, you gain 1VP. For each 5 Florins you have, you gain 1 VP. Prestige VP is awarded as indicated on the Prestige Collection card chosen at the start of the game. Your total VP is your score for the game.

        The Five Turn Phases:
        1. Move the time track eurocube forward one day closer to [40].

        2. Move the Librarian Pawn clockwise 3 spaces, then turn over the top Artisan card from the draw pile on to the discard pile and move the Librarian accordingly as indicated by the Librarian icon on the left-hand side of the card.

        3. Look at the small Artisan icon below the Librarian icon on this same card. You may not play any card with that Artisan symbol on it this turn unless you discard a card from your hand with a matching small Artisan icon.

        4. You may now do any of the following, but in order:
        a. Pay 1 Florin to move the Librarian forward or backward one space. You may pay 1 Florin for each space you wish to move the Librarian.
        b. Sell a book, if completed, in the Tower the Librarian is currently standing on. Turn over the next 2 Artisan cards from the draw deck. Place the second card to the right of the first and look at the florin value on the second card as indicated by the Florin icon at on the first card. This is the amount the Librarian is willing to pay for this book. You may pay extra 1 day of time to turn over another card replacing the current Florin amount. You may continue to do this, paying 1 day of time per card turned over, until you are satisfied with the price.
        Mark this amount on your Florin Track and return all Artisan eurocubes from the completed book to your pool. Then mark the production of a book on your Book track, moving the red eurocube forward one space, and if the book is one of those needed for a Prestige Collection, mark that book on the Prestige Collection card as well with a red eurocube. Note: you may pay extra days of time only if they remain on the Time Track. Lastly, place all drawn cards used to calculate the Florin value on the discard pile.
        c. Discard one Artisan card from your hand to the discard pile and place that number of black eurocubes on the Artisans indicated by the card, on any one Tower. Then discard one more card from your hand to pay for those Artisans. You may do this action twice if you wish. You do not receive any surplus Artisans from the discarded card. Nor do you receive any surplus Artisans if your tower already has the number required for that Artisan type. The second time you do this action you may add Artisans to the same tower or a different one.

        5. Draw back to a hand of 5 cards. If the draw deck is exhausted, shuffle the discard cards for a new draw deck.

    • Rules Link:


  • Do Not Forsake Me (Oh My Darling)
    • Published in 2015
    • 1 Player
    • 30 Minutes
    • Description:
      • Crewed by a group of misfits under your command, the Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling is a bounty hunter ship of the Rim Quadrants, sailing the edges of space in search of the dread pirates, criminals and charlatan messiahs who prey on the innocent. Bring them to justice and collect the Bounty Megacredits. Earn 30 Megacredits and you can retire from the wandering life among the stars. Lose your crew and be doomed to haunt the spaceways for all time.This is a solo game of high adventure in space using only 18 cards and no other components. Rules are included within the 18 card format.

        Each turn is broken down into the following phases:

        1. Movement
        a. Station Re-Equip
        b. Repairs in Space

        2. Events
        a. NavComm
        b. Bounty
        1. Evade
        2. Engage in Combat

        3. Combat

        The player moves around a randomly generated map of cards and has 4 Ship Systems (Crew, NavComm, Wave Motion Cannon and Fusioncasting Engines) they must balance the use of during the phases of the game.

        The game also features a set of Bounty cards which are double-sided and generate all random dice rolls as well as act as an AI in the game, balancing the strength of the bounties again the player’s current stats.

    • Rules Link:


  • The Court of Xiang Chi
    • Published in 2015
    • 1 Player
    • 15-20 Minutes
    • Description:
      • As ruler of the three clans – Sun, Moon and Earth – it is your task to rule over your court of ministers, tax collectors, generals, poets and courtesans who will bring prosperity to land and protect the people from the Daemon Princes of the Fire Clan.A Solitaire Game lasting 15-20 minutes

        Shuffle the 54 cards and place them face down as a draw pile. Four cards are dealt face up to form Society Row.

        The player chooses 3 of these cards to place below in their Royal Court as starting cards. The cards may be placed in any of the 4 spaces in either of the 2 rows forming the Royal Court. If any Daemon Prince cards are drawn, they are set aside and will be shuffled back into the deck after the player chooses the three they want (dealing out replacement cards to Society Row). The player also begins the game with 10 copper pieces (CP). These starting cards will not have their powers activated during the Game Setup.

        A game turn consists of three phases:

        Phase 1A. The player may purchase 1 card from Society Row and place in the Royal Court OR they may skip this phase and go to Phase 1B.

        If the player purchases a card, any cards to the left of the gap slide to the right and a new card is drawn and placed in Society Row.

        Cards will be purchased during the game from this row in an auction format.

        Phase 1B. If the player does not wish to purchase any cards, the rightmost, non-Daemon Prince card is discarded and all remaining cards slide to the right and a new card is drawn and placed in Society Row. The player then receives 1CP and an additional 1CP for each Tax Collector in the Royal Court.

        Phase 2. The player may now use the combined strength of their Generals to combat one Daemon Prince. If the player has 3 or more Generals in the Royal Court representing each of the three clan icons, the player adds +2 to the total strength to the Generals. To defeat one Daemon Prince during this phase, the total of all Generals’ strengths must be equal to or greater than the Daemon Prince’s strength (as shown by the black number). The player may additionally pay CP to add 1CP/1 Strength to this total. The defeated Daemon Prince is placed to the left of the draw deck, any cards to the left of the gap slide to the right and a new card is drawn and placed in Society Row. The player gains VP as listed on the Daemon Prince card.

        Phase 3. If Daemon Princes remain in Society Row, the rightmost non-Daemon Prince card is removed from the Society Row and placed in the Court of the Daemon Princes. All remaining cards slide to the right and a new card is drawn and placed in Society Row.

        Game End:
        The game will end after Phase 3 if either:
        4 Daemon Princes are in the Society Row or all 9 Daemon Princes have been drawn.

        The player then adds up the total VP gained during the game and additionally gains 1VP for every 3CP they have left. Each card in the Daemon Prince pile subtracts its listed VP from the player’s VP score.

    • Rules Link:
Board Gaming · Interview · Solo Gaming · Solo Month · Uncategorized

Interview with Tristan Hall

As solo month is starting to wind down, I am turning the focus onto more of the people in the community. First up is Tristan Hall, designer of great games such as Gloom of Kilforth and 1066, Tears to Many Mothers. He also has his own game company, Hall or Nothing Productions. He’s a great guy and a great designer, recently getting voted into the BGG 1-Player Guild Hall of Fame as a designer.


  1. You started off your solo design career making new, but unofficial, content for the Lord of the Rings LCG core set. What inspired you to design those and what did you learn in the process?

Yes, The Lord of the Rings LCG just blew me away. A brilliant design, beautiful art, addictive gameplay, the whole package. And right back there at its launch we were all eager for new content, but it was several months before the adventure packs started landing so the community was limited to the three scenarios that came in the core box. I wanted to stretch the value of the core set using as many existing components as possible to keep barrier to entry low for other players, and I had some ideas I wanted to see in the game, so I popped my creative hat on, and the geek community seemed to embrace my Ninjadorg (my boardgamegeek handle) scenarios. They were downloaded tens of thousands of times and the positive feedback from other gamers made me realise an important lesson: people might be interested in the geeky stuff I design.

  1. I understand you’ve had your hand in designing other things beyond Lord of the Rings LCG stuff (apart from your own games by Hall or Nothing Productions). What else have you contributed and what inspired you to create them?

Well, I’d often been developing fanmade stuff for other games like the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System Games (Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon), Fortune and Glory, A Touch of Evil, and Arkham Horror, and also redesigning old games like Sorcerer’s Cave and Mystic Wood – just putting things into those games that I’d like to see really, or in the case of the older games trying to give them a fresh, colourful polish. I don’t really think of myself in this way but rereading some of these games/projects right now I suppose I’m probably a bit of a tinkerer.

  1. Gloom of Kilforth has been a smashing success among the solo gaming community. Did you anticipate the level of success that this game has found? What has surprised you the most?

Thank you. I did not anticipate any real success for Gloom of Kilforth originally. What surprised me the most was that we actually funded originally – it took us 27 days out of a 30 day Kickstarter to reach our funding goal for the first print run, so it was a squeaker! Fantasy games with the scale of ambition as GoK are rare but were much more rare back in 2015, and that both hindered and helped us, because people were taking a big chance on this huge game even getting made (at that time I had no other official games to my name), but I think that’s also what made it such an enticing prospect too, like, could we pull it off successfully? And a few years later here we are, and I’m absolutely delighted with the reception the game has received.

  1. What challenges did you encounter in designing/marketing/manufacturing of such a massive game as your first published game? Did any of the content you worked on prior to Gloom of Kilforth help you be more successful?

All of the design work I’d previously dabbled in was tested to its limits – it would probably be easier to list all the elements that were not a challenge! If I had one tip for new designers it would be to start smaller and more sensibly before working your way up to the bigger games. Otherwise you might find yourself juggling setting up your own business (whilst working full time), accounts, legal, logistics, international shipping, foreign manufacturing, sleep loss, community building and Kickstarter management, all whilst corralling together a gorgeous soundscape and 300 unique images to build your world, oh yes, with a smattering of game design thrown in too…

  1. Shifting gears to the game I was so hyped about: 1066, Tears to Many Mothers. That was quite a change, from a massive fantasy game to a small 1-2 player historical wargame. What inspired you to produce this game?

There was a sense of wanting to prove I’m not a one trick pony I guess, but the events of 1066 had a huge impact on me as a kid, and those stories have stayed with me my whole life. I loved the idea of a beautiful card game like Magic or LotR that taught a little bit about history too, so maybe players would take a little ken away from the game with them, instead of say, memorising the stats for a Shivan Dragon or Pikachu. Most history games set in the period of 1066 are quite dry, hex and chit affairs so I wanted to give history a sexy update, with slick, easy to learn mechanics and sweet art, and try to make these incredible true stories as appealing to others as they are to me.

  1. How does the solo play in 1066 differ from the competitive 2-player experience of the game? Which design came first: the 2-player or the solitaire?

The 2-player game came first, and originally I wasn’t convinced about the solo version of the game being possible, but then I started playing games with detailed automa rules (like Scythe and Labyrinth) and seeing some of the incredible work being put out by creative members of the One Player Guild to deliver solo version of multiplayer games, which was something I already had a little experience in too. One of our chief play-testers Paul Ibbs had some really great ideas about how to implement an AI for 1066 that didn’t require sheets of rules and flow charts, and so I worked with him to flesh these out, and I’m really pleased with our results.

  1. I know at one point you were talking about exploring more battles with the 1066 system. Is that still the case? What are the top candidates to appear next?

Having buried my nose in history books for the past couple of months I’m in the thick of the design process for “1565, St Elmo’s Pay” which uses the same mechanics as 1066, Tears to Many Mothers (and therefore will be cross-compatible) to recreate the Siege of Malta. My friends, family and distributors have all advised against it because very few people have heard about this incredibly important battle for the Mediterranean – which is kinda like a latter day ‘300 Spartans’ – but, hey, they said the same about 1066. So let’s see how it goes on Kickstarter next year…

  1. Let’s talk Lifeform briefly! What can a solo gamer expect for their gaming experience if they go and do a late pledge to get the game?

Lifeform is a masterful homage to the movie Alien: a game about an unstoppable space creature hunting down and slaying a team of ill-equipped, space-faring miners aboard a labyrinthine ship. It was created by legendary designer Mark Chaplin, whose work on Aliens: This Time It’s War, The Thing, Revolver and Invaders has impressed me enormously over the years. As soon as I played it I wanted to be involved as publisher, and I twisted Mark’s arm to come up with a set of solo rules too, to appease us ravenous solo players. The expansion he came up with is a completely bespoke take on the game, where the odds are stacked against you as you play a single crew member trying to make it off the ship alive, all the while being stalked inexorably by this horrific space god. I really can’t wait to see what gamers think when it lands.

  1. Why did you decide to publish Lifeform? How did you go about making sure it had the solo experience that you’re becoming known for?

I’d been following its development on BGG for years and kept nudging Mark to let me play it. Eventually he came to stay at ours for a weekend when our group played it solidly and fell in love. He was weighing up publisher offers and I threw my hat into the ring because I saw a great game that I wanted to be a part of. I think one of the key selling points for him was that through our company he could have complete creative control without having to re-theme the game or tone it down to appease his publisher. I made sure Mark had plenty of time to make the solo rules robust whilst I wrapped up the work on 1066, so we waited until that project was safely off to the printers before launching the Kickstarter for Lifeform.

  1. Speaking of being known for solo gaming, why do you choose to make sure your games play solitaire as well as at other player counts? Are there any unique challenges in refining that solo experience to make sure it is just right?

There are LOTS of reasons to play solo games (I wrote an article on this for the UKGE magazine last year) and I play a LOT of solo games. Like, mostly solo. Our group meets once a week, but I play almost every day. So that’s at the forefront of my mind when developing my own games. And over the last few decades I’ve gone from being laughed at on forums for asking about or developing solo play rules for games, to joining various online guilds with tens of thousands of members dedicated to solo gaming, and these days it seems nary a Kickstarter goes by without including solo rules of some sort. The landscape has changed for the better, and it feels great to be a part of that. Sure it requires extra work in the development process, but if you’re going to make something epic you have to do it right.

  1. What else is on the horizon for Tristan Hall and/or Hall or Nothing Productions that a solo gamer might be interested in knowing about?

Apart from the aforementioned “1565, St Elmo’s Pay” next year we also have the sequel to Gloom of Kilforth – “Touch of Death” – Kickstarting at the end of this year, and next year will also see the reveal of our upcoming horror game “Sublime Dark”, which tries a few new things and I hope will again fill a unique niche. I could go on, but we have to keep some surprises up our sleeves, right?

  1. Finally, if people want to stalk you on BGG/Twitter/etc. and keep on top of what you’re working on, get news for when your next projects go live or need playtesters, etc. where can they find you?
  • Twitter @ninjadorg
  • BGG ninjadorg
  • Our #BoardChitless podcast on soundcloud, youtube and iTunes
  • And come join the Facebook groups for Gloom of Kilforth, Lifeform, and 1066, Tears to Many Mothers

Thanks for having me, and happy gaming! 🙂

Board Gaming · Solo Gaming · Solo Month

Solo Game Spotlight #2

Welcome to the post with the least-helpful title in the series! I called for designers to reach out to me and let me know if they had a solo game they designed, and there were plenty of answers to that call. Some of them, such as Dungeon Crawler, have received their own little entry due to providing more information that just a link to their game on BGG. So these three posts (this one, #1 posted back on the 10th, and #3 on the 30th) will be sharing some of the games out there that you may not have heard about when it comes to solo gaming. Some are published, some are free to print and play, and one I’m including here because I am oh-so-excited for it and it is on Kickstarter right now.

If you have a solo game and want to appear in #3 this month, it isn’t too late to email me at:


Nemo’s War by Chris Taylor –

Jules Verne’s classic novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea tells the story of Captain Nemo and his astounding ship, the Nautilus. The second edition of Nemo’s War, Victory Point Games’ popular solitaire offering from designer Chris Taylor, is a greatly enhanced offering featuring mass-production printing and amazing Ian O’Toole art and graphics throughout.

Set in year 1870, you set sail in this amazing electric-powered submarine, assuming the role and motive of Captain Nemo as you travel across the seas on missions of science, exploration, anti-Imperialism, and War!

With this supercharged second edition of Nemo’s War, prepare yourself for the adventure of a lifetime!

Complexity: 3 on a 9 scale

Solitaire Suitability: 9 on a 9 scale

Scale: Time is measured in Action Points which represent approximately 1 week of real time; each encounter is with 1 major ship (its crew and contents) and each area is 1 Ocean.

Purchase link:


Charlemagne, Master of Europe by Tom Russell –

At the age of twenty-nine, Charles I became sole ruler of the Frankish Empire. What he did with that power over the course of the next forty-plus years is the stuff of legend. His unparalleled achievements in warfare, diplomacy, administration, and culture led to the sobriquet Carolus Magnus: Charles the Great: Charlemagne, King of the Franks and of the Lombards, and Emperor of the Romans.

In this solitaire strategy game, you assume the Frankish throne, and seek to duplicate – or exceed – Charlemagne’s singular genius, while hopefully avoiding some of his mistakes, such as the famous defeat at Roncevaux (immortalized in the Song of Roland). As you conquer new territory and incorporate it into your empire, you’ll need to contend with rebels and palace intriguers. Building public works and patronizing the Carolingian Renaissance will increase your prestige and wealth. Along the way you’ll need to win the support of the papacy, buy off Viking marauders, convert the pagans in Saxony, contend with incursions from Al-Andalus, build a powerful army, and maintain detente with the Byzantine Empire.

Gamers who are familiar with the game Agricola, Master of Britain will find many similarities between it and Charlemagne: Master of Europe, though this is a longer and more complex game, with its own nuances. The core mechanism of cup adjustments is of course alive and well. Chits representing enemy units reside in one of three cups representing how they feel about your rule: Friendly, Unfriendly, or Hostile. Chits are drawn from the hostile cup and placed on the map, manifesting themselves as overt challenges to your rule. Every action you take will subtly change their stance, blindly moving chits from one cup to another.

Purchase link:


Cobras by Chris and Suzanne Zinsli –

Cobras are overrunning the village, so the authorities have put out a bounty on them. Seizing the opportunity, you have secretly begun breeding cobras for the extra income. However, your scheme won’t go unnoticed forever, and when the authorities cancel the program, any cobras you’re left with will bite you.

Cobras is a trick-taking game that is played over a series of rounds. The players who do not win a trick divide up the cobras shown on the cards that were played; the player who won the trick turns in their cobra tokens for points.

If you have any cobras in your basket when the round ends, you lose 1 point per cobra.

Add up your points from round to round. When a round ends with one or more players at 100 points or more, the game ends and the player with the most points wins.

Purchase link:


Of the Woods: Lonely Game of Imagination by Brie Sheldon –

Of the Woods is a collection of six single-player lonely games. A lonely game is a game of questions to tell haunting, introspective, and quiet stories. The original game by Brie Sheldon, Locked Away, inspired the subsequent games by Kimberley Lam, Moyra Turkington, Meera Barry, Chris Bennett, and Adam McConnaughey, the last of which involves a tarot card mechanic. When you play a lonely game, you tell a story no one else has told – to keep locked away, or to share with others who are lonely, too.

Purchase from:

Other games can be found at: and


Death’s Door by Paul Ott –

DEATH’S DOOR is an extremely challenging, semi-cooperative dungeon crawler with asymmetric objectives, dynamic stat engine, modular hex-grid board, and full character progression in one sitting. No GM required.
Number of players:
1-3 players for the Basic Edition game, and
1-6 players for the Deluxe Edition.
Time to play:
2-4 hours
12+ (due to strategic elements)
The long version is:
Do you ever wonder where the very idea of werewolves and
trolls came from? Well, dear friend, allow me to illuminate.
No matter where, or when, you are reading this, surely you
know of great pyramids–every corner of earth has these
ancient remnants of the past. Tombs? Oh, how simple and
ignorant people of the past always seem to be. Tombs, yes,
but only for the archaeologists that discovered the hidden
stairs leading deep into the underground darkness. You see,
what is above ground is as the tip of an iceberg. Beneath
the ground these structures continued for leagues.
Created by civilizations still unknown to us today, these
grand pyramids are not tombs but prisons. They house the
worst–absolute evil–spirits and monsters. Infused with,
shall we say, magic, the labyrinthine dungeons allow the
world above to live and prosper without concern for zombies
and goblins.
Famous, powerfully driven adventures now find themselves
drawn down the hundred thousand dusty steps. As they
descend their very flesh and bones morph and mutate into
creatures of lost lore. At the bottom are three doors that
lead into a nightmarish dungeon that changes each time
new visitors arrive. Some work together to attempt to
destroy the terrifying evil within, while others seek eternal
glory through their own story.
The game is aimed to fill the niche of those who want strong character development and tactical combat in a fantasy setting, but in a non-campaign package. There’s tons of great fantasy games that are campaigns. Most of the one-offs either leave you feeling like your character is incomplete (if they even allow character development), or their target audience is kids due to the simplicity of play.
We have:
– Multiclassing. Add two classes to your character as you play allowing for many combinations and styles of play. 24 classes total, although they will be divided between the core game and the expansion.
– Unique objectives. Each player has their own individual objectives. They can work together, or not. Everyone wins if the Final Boss dies, and if they fail then the most points wins.
– Cutthroat scenario. An optional Cutthroat scenario without the “Everyone wins when Final Boss dies” win condition, where only most points wins.
– Hex grid. As other strategy games have shown, a hex grid allows for more fluid and natural movement and positioning.
– Modular board. Players freely build the board as they play, deciding where they want to explore, if they want to team up or go solo.
– Depth. Varied and position attacks, soul-crushing traps, diverse monsters, and three extremely challenging Final Bosses.
Since it is a non-campaign game, we’ve worked hard to make the game intuitive enough to be picked up and learned in one sitting. And, based on feedback from the two conventions we’ve demo’d our prototype, we’ve hit our target.
The target audience is:
– People who like fantasy games (tabletop, video games, board games, and card games)
– People who like challenging games (like Dark Souls)
– People who like competitive games (including wargames)
– People who like strategy games (including Civilization)
– People who like solo games
– People who like miniatures

For solo games, the player picks two characters and tries to defeat the Boss, which is extremely hard. Additionally, each time you rest there is a 50% chance of adding either a monster or trap to the Boss’s room. So you have to play as carefully as possible, which means analysis paralysis is not only fine, but encouraged and a big part of the fun. I spend lots of time dreaming up combos.

The website, facebook page, and general promotional materials are currently in development, but here is where they will be:


The Abandons by Michael Blascoe

Have you ever felt like someone was calling you but nobody was there? A voice deep within the crevices of your mind that you typically give little attention. You felt that voice this morning, but this time, it was clear – it was calling you! The voice became loud enough to gnaw at your sanity yet it’s manageable enough that you’ve been able to bury it.

Time seemed to move in slow-motion, mostly due to the eerie voice. What is it saying? It can’t be real. Frustrated, you keep working. Even with the lingering storm clouds ready to unleash a torrent of rain and thunder over the land, you fight that possibility and continue.

Towards the end of the day you hit a breaking point. You need to clear your head. The storm clouds are passing, it looks like a great time for a walk to the countryside. You run to your home and grab your satchel, which contains some odds and ends. As you start moving west towards the setting sun, you turn around to face your home, possibly for the last time. You don’t care. The need to escape is too much. The need to escape the voice is even greater. Yet, the need to follow the voice is consuming! You’re ready for an adventure. You’re ready for the unknown. Little do you realize, you may end up alone. Welcome to…THE ABANDONS!

The Abandons is a press-your-luck game of exploration meant to be played alone. You will traverse the twists and turns of the labyrinth in the hopes of making it out alive. Be careful, your next turn may be your last – and you shall forever be abandoned!

The goal of The Abandons is to make it out of the maze alive by reaching the exit before you’ve reached too many dead ends and have no way out!

—description from the publisher


The Prime-Minister by Ippokratis Gnostopoulos

In the game you act as the Prime-Minister of Greece. During a 4 years loop you take actions to solve crisis, develop your cabinet and implement you policies. Your work is depicted in 10 different scales (Corruption, GDP, Left voters, Right voters, USA/Russia affiliation, Balkan peace index, Party support, Security, Syndicates, European Union, Media control). The loop ends with the election day: if you win, congratulations! You continue in office for another four years! If you lose, the game ends and you score a combination of your years in office and the state of the country. You can compare your outcome with the current world leaders and check your ranking against the 80 most advanced countries according to the world happiness index. Some of the game mechanics are deck building, hand management, push your luck, card drafting, action point allowance and modular/modifiable board.

There is a Legacy – campaign mode, where, starting from 1964, you lead the country through the opportunities and the difficulties of the last 50 years. In this mode each election loop has its own modified rules and conditions that are known to the player only for the next 4 years. The front page of a newspaper on the next of the election day guides you through the rules, as well the political environment of the coming era.

The game is still in the early stages of development and my next goal is to finalize the rules and give it for external playtesting. Future goals include Legacy modes for other countries (USA, Great Britain, Germany).


Quest: Awakening of Melior by Andrew Wilson

For as long as anyone remembers, Melior has been a mundane, magicless medieval world, but crystals have been falling from the sky, and a year ago, a pale moon appeared, alighting the crystals and the world with rippling magical energy.

Face encounters in the Meltwood Forest—once a normal patch of woods now reshaped by a melting rain that fused animals, plants, people, and everything it dripped on—Glowmount—a massive crystal that fell from the sky and was carved into a castle by dwarves and then taken over by humans, now glowing with the new magic and twisting its denizens into crazy, crystalline beings—and the Shadow Caves—a sinewy series of passages shaped by memory and imagination, dark with the fears of the world but strangely accommodating and cathartic.

Quest: Awakening of Melior is a single-player expandable game of cards, dice, and adventure. Play as a character against Glowmount, Meltwood, and Shadow Caves encounters, using Combat, Survival, and Intellect statistics against the encounters in order to defeat them and continue your journey. Roll dice to complete combos for both you and the encounters you face, altering those statistics. Before each encounter, an event card comes into effect. The deeper you delve, the more likely an event will be a Quest—complete a QUEST, and you gain the glory and win the game. Be wary of the Diamond Knights, the Meltwolf Packs, the Agony Bats, and more—when an encounter defeats you, it reduces your hit points. Run out of hit points, and you lose the game.

Variants offer gameplay options for multiplayer play as well, either cooperative or competitive.

From the designer: The game is technically available through distribution in the U.S. through PHD, though their stock is kind of low. (Hopefully they’re restock at some point!) I’ve also been selling copies to people who’ve contacted me through email. The MSRP is $25, and I sell PnP files for $5.

• Website
Board Gaming · Interview · Solo Gaming · Solo Month

Interview with Giles Pound from Both Sides of My Table

Today we’re shifting gears a little and having an interview from a guy in England who only covers solo gaming on his blog. That’s right, I managed to corner Giles Pound from Both Sides of My Table for a few minutes to get some insightful and interesting answers out of him. He definitely has a unique style of writing that can be entertaining and enlightening at the same time, so be sure to check out what he’s up to (links at the end of the post):


1. The industry is full of content creators who try to grab and review as much content as they can. What inspired you to focus solely on solitaire play?

Oooooh…starting with the most trixy of questions…it was almost by chance that I chose solo gaming. By that I mean that pretty much all the games I have are, in some way or other, solo games or solo variants so it was inevitable that this would be my focus. It really all started when I did a write up for Hall or Nothing’s Gloom of Kilforth landed on my table last October (2017) and I felt compelled to share the game experience. I hadn’t set out with any goal or focus…and although there are numerous reviewers, both written and video, that I have followed for several years, I didn’t think of this as a conscious attempt to be one of them…it was something that emerged from my meandering narrative.

2. What lessons have you learned since your first blog post?

I’m mot sure I have learnt any lessons…not that I am arrogant and think I know everything…more along the lines of me continuing to make blunders. There are internal battles I have to learn to overcome such as the vast number of games coming on to the market and, having almost zero gaming budget, knowing I can never keep up with the ‘new’. Sadly this means that I have to accept that I will never be a ’current’reviewer. I mostly write about games I feel inspired to write about on that particular day and waffle on in my own way (some folks enjoy that, which is great, and I have listened to what little feedback I have been given to improve things, but being a solo gamer and very much an outsider of a very large, established network of gaming types, I find my self just muddling along in my own way.

3. What is your favorite thing about solo gaming? How about the solo gaming community?

Solo gaming is the only opportunity I have of finding sensible conversation…no that’s not strictly true…me, myself and I frequently break down into heated discussions over even simple things like which game to actually play next. Playing solo firstly means I can play where, when, for as long and as often as I get a gaming urge without the need for travelling great distances (I live in a rural area and 20 odd miles away from the nearest gaming meet up) As I like solo variants of multiplayer games, I get to experience that multiplayer game without the fuss of organising meets ups with people who want to play the same game. As for the community…sadly I have mixed feelings here. i have experienced some unpleasant, very Alpha gaming attitudes on the likes of kickstarter comments sections and especially on BGG (this latter shocked me because I thought joining the player guild would be a fun experience…I was mistaken and rarely visit BGG there days unless I go to a game’s page to find out info)…but the solo gaming type people I have come to know on witter, of all places, are lovely supportive people so it is not all bad.

4. What are some of the games you’ve played that blew way past your expectations? What was it about those games that bumped them up a few notches on that die-roll rating?

I get a great buzz from many games and get so many different experiences from the fairly broad range of games I own. The first that blew me away was Gloom of Kilforth. So many elements coming together perfectly for my tastes. Superb art from Ania, High end fantasy, very much a sandbox exploration adventure experience, ease of play and story telling. Oh and having met Tristan couple of times along the way to the projects journey to fulfilment, ade it a more personal game…absolute top bloke…oh and Mrs Ninjadoerg too, Francesca Hall’s amazing OST…I just love games that have their own sound track. There has been a similar feeling with frank West’s City of Kings…a very different game but still a great experience. I was impressed by Rise to Nobility but I am saving that for a later answer. GMT games have several that are just a wonderful experience to play too. These, however, are somewhat ponderous in the undertaking. Liberty or d=Death and Labyrinth Awakening are heavy going but brilliant…and the Bot action flowcharts really present a difficult opponent…mustn’t forget Fields of Fire. A proper solo wargame at squad operation level…a minefield of. Rule book but a game that actually plays very well. I die so many times but still come back for more (although I have not intentionally, not written a less than positive review on any game, this is down to the fact that there are only 3 game purchases I have been disappointed with…none of which have a solo variant and 2/3 have already been dispatched to a location other than my shelf…I am quite selective, thorough in researching a title before I buy)

5. If someone is newer to solo gaming, what are some first games you would recommend they try? This could include PnP games, published games, etc.

New to solo gaming…eeeek. I am not sure how to advise without knowing what the player wants from solo gaming. PnP is a cheap option if someone is happy crafting their own components…I have a shed load of PnP from simple card games to several of Hollandspiel Games titles to a giant playtest of Gandhi (upcoming COIN game).. if they are not new to gaming I would suggest looking for a multiplayer game that has a good solo variant so that id solo is not for them, at least there is a game that can be taken to group night but again actual titles would be very much dependant on then level of complexity they would be looking for. Have I skirted the question sufficiently without committing myself? The Exiled:Siege, Zephyr Winds of Change (Portal Dragon), Robinson Crusoe Cursed Isle (Z Man), Tau Ceti (Outer Limits), Liberty or Death & Labyrinth Awakening (GMT), Dwarves:The Saga (Pegasus Spiele), Gloom of Kilforth (Hall or Nothing) 21 days (Erik Winkelmann) and Tuscany(Stonemier Games) all excellent solo variants. Pure solo games I think Nemo’s War (VP Games although this has an added , slightly contrived co-op variant), Fields of Fire (GMT) and Charlemagne Master of Europe (Hollandspiele) are great examples.

6. Who are some of your favorite solo designers that you’d recommend other solo gamers go and stalk? Let’s raise some awareness about the excellent work they do!

I don’t really have a particular favourite designer as such. I would not go and buy a game just because a particular name is on it. The game needs to fit first and foremost. That said, I would recommend stalking Tristan Hall….no don’t do that…appreciate his work but I would never suggest stalking…mind you I do at cons he is attending…lol. Frank West is a great guy, very accommodating and worthy of attention as is NigelKennington (designer of Carcosa…A Cthulhu like carcasonne game but with a great solo variant that, in my view is actually better than the multiplayer original)…a great chap to chat to at cons. Andrew Harman of Yay games (not really solo but still worthy of a mention), the delightful folks at Estonian 2d6EE Games are producing some great smaller scale games many of which are soloable or, after I put some pressure on them, have introduced solo modes to their up and coming Dwarven Traders) and Laurie Philips (designer of the COIN Tribes’ Revolt that gives a GMT COIN game experience in just nine cards… is currently working on Bots to make this fully soloable)

7. Let’s talk mechanics for a moment: What mechanics, such as worker placement or deck building, are guaranteed to catch your interest? What ones might have a harder time convincing you to try them?

What catches my attention? Often a theme or art style grabs me first…then I have to scrutinise it with a fine scroot…to see if the concept/gameplay is something that would appeal to my inner gamer…so there is no particular system/mechanic that instantly draws me in. A good use of mechanics to help consolidate a theme helps bring a game to the top of the ‘notice me’ pilea. I do so hate, with a growing passion, a standard, dull, mediocre mechanic that has some glossy franchised veneer pated all over it to sell a mundane product with out any consideration made for creating a real link between the theme and how the game plays. I generally don’t like deckbuilders. I don’t object to an element of deck building/manipulation but, and as popular as Dominion is, I am not a huge fan. I regret trading it now, but I used to like Rune Age with the expansion…I think, perhaps, because it had more than just building a deck to score VP’s…and I do like that whole Rune world the created. (Not on a solo gaming theme but I am not a huge word game fan but have been impressed by Paper Back (bought for Mrs P who is a massive word game fan)….aaaaaah! I like a wordy deckbuilder! I will be tossed into the firey pit of damnation for such a crime!…Length and Wit (Tinderbox Entertainment) is also a wordgame I like, using laser cut wooden tiles and letter dice….sooo tactile. Very much a push your luck affair but no down time) Aah! I just remembered I hate auction/bidding but fortunately that doesn’t find its way into solo play much…but that would be the area where hard sell would be required to win me over. A bidding solo!

8. What sort of experience do you look for in a solo game (such as a beat-your-high-score, etc.)? Why?

Hahaaaa! You said those ‘hateful’ few words. Beat your Own Score. What a completely pointless wast of cardboard. I most definitely require a purpose for playing a game and beating my own score just isn’t the incentive to bring me back for a second play. Rise to Nobility (Final Frontier) has simply but cleverly introduced a way around this in their worker placement game. They have a deck of random solo win objectives. There is a varying in total to achieve but also certain criterion set down to enable victory. Now there is a purpose. Each game plays very differently as the goals are different with each play. They are very difficult to achieve but do force you to use different parts of the gameboard you might otherwise avoid in multiplayer. The Automa in Tuscany is really a basic blocker mechanic added to the beat your own solo game but it has been so well constructed that it really messes with your strategies and the whole game is complex, think on your feet a race against the ever increasing VP score of Automa (it nicely introduces a difficulty scaling too) So what do I look for in a solo game? A- Purpose. Why am I doing what I am doing? Are the mechanics relative to the theme? B- Theme. I like a coherent theme that links to A (if it is a purely abstract game, then let it be purely abstract and be gone you pretentious glossy veneers) C- Excitement/Adventure. A narrative or story telling. By that I do not mean as part of the game/role play but the gameplay itself tells a story D- A sense of achievement. I don’t want a game to be so easy that it doesn’t challenge me but also not so incredibly complex or difficult that success is nigh on impossible. A challenge that when it is finally overcome, fills me with a feeling of deep satisfaction.

9. Finally, since you are a fellow content creator, what are some other reviewers, etc. that solo gamers should go and read/watch/listen to that touch upon solo gaming?

Off the top of my head I would recommend Beyond Solitaire & Shiny Happy Meeples for both video & blog ’must’ viewing. As for blogs themselves Single Handed & jambalayaplaysgames. For Video playthroughs Catweazel is most entertaining, Rolling Solo, Solomode Games, Solo McLaughlin, One Stop Co-op Shop and obviously Sir Ricky of Royal- Box of Delights

10. Where can people find Both Sides of My Table?

Both Sides of My Table is in the most rural of deepest Shropshire, UK…but is much easier to find at and there is a facebook page/group where notifications of new items are announced


Thank you so much to Giles for his time answering these questions. Be sure to check out what he’s been doing over at Both Sides of My Table, as he’s covered a pretty extensive number of solo-worthy games in a short span of time! And if you appreciate his work, be sure to check out his Patreon page as well:


Board Gaming · Review for One · Solo Gaming · Solo Month · Uncategorized

Review for One – Sprawlopolis

Thank you for checking review #54 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 Sprawlopolis

Sprawlopolis is a game designed by Steven Aramini, Danny Devine, and Paul Kluka and iss published by Button Shy Games. The listing on BGG states that it can play 1-4 players and has a 15-20 minute play time.

Jackhammers chattering, trucks beeping, engines roaring, the sounds of construction are everywhere. Sprawlopolis is growing and YOU are in charge of it all. The last team of planners couldn’t cut it, so the city turned to your team, the best of the best. If anyone can turn this tiny town into a thriving civic center it’s you.

In Sprawlopolis, 1-4 players work together to build a new city from the ground up. Using only 18 cards and a variable scoring system, the game is never the same twice. Each turn, players will play 1 card from their hand to the growing city, trying to score as many points as possible. Players will have to communicate and plan without revealing their own cards in order to most efficiently develop large areas in each of the 4 zone types. Watch out though, the city hates paying for road maintenance so each road will cost you points in the end. When all cards have been placed, the game ends and player see if they have met dynamically generated minimum score for their game. Can you meet the demands of the officials, work with your fellow planners and build the ultimate urban wonder? It’s time to find out!

-description from publisher

Setup and gameplay for 1 Player

The game is hilariously simple in both aspects, yet mind-numbingly hard to win. If that appeals to you, read on!

Shuffle the 18 cards and randomly draw 3 to put face-up on their scoring objective. These are the unique ways you can score points (in addition to the standard ones, outlined later). Deal yourself 3 cards to form your hand and then place the top card from the deck in the center of the table to form the beginning of your city.

On your turn you place a card and then draw a card. This pattern is repeated until all cards have been drawn and played (essentially, you play 14 cards). The card can only be placed horizontally, so you can’t turn it sideways. A card can either be placed so that at least one zone is orthogonally adjacent to an existing card , or it can be placed with at least one zone covering an existing card’s zone. You cannot tuck a card, nor place it so that it is only diagonally adjacent to another card.

At the end of the game you get 1 point for each square of zone in the largest grouping for all 4 zone types. You lose 1 point for each new road. And then you score based on the 3 special scoring conditions. If your score is higher than the sum of the 3 scoring objective numbers (they range 1-18) then you win!

My Thoughts

 Variability is king in this game. You wouldn’t think that a 10-15 minute game with only 18 cards total could be so variable, but there are literally hundreds of variations on what three scoring factors you will use in the game (816, according to the Kickstarter). That is an amazing number to consider, and that means you could play this game twice a day, using a different combination, every day for a year and still not play each possible combination. Mind. Blown.

 Those ******* roads. I don’t normally curse, but nearly every game I find myself losing 6-8 points from the ineffective way I built my city. While I hate them in the moment, I absolutely love that you lose points for them and, therefore, need to find a way to juggle making longer roads and large zones and the three scoring objectives. It is nice when said objectives work well with those aspects, but they don’t always.

 The rules on this game are simple and straight-forward. One quick skim through the book was all it took for me to be off and running. As much as I don’t mind slogging through a 15-20 page rulebook to learn a game, sometimes it is nice to be able to open and start playing a game within 10 minutes of getting it.

 You have meaningful decisions along the way thanks to the hand size of 3. Decisions would be agonizing if you could play any remaining card at any time. Decisions would seem pointless, at times, if you only had 1 card in your hand to play. Even when your cards don’t align with your long-term goals, it never feels as though you’re restricted by the gameplay. It helps being able to play over parts of existing cards, allowing you to set up for a future play.

 This is a “beat your own high score” done right. That is normally a solo game experience I dislike, as I prefer competition against something. And it gives you something: a number to beat. It could be as low as 6 or as high as 51. I saw someone mention they beat the game using the highest three numbers and then lost against the lowest three. That shouldn’t even be possible. This is a unique solo puzzle, and for that it merits a place in any collection for a solo gamer.

 This is a player issue, not a game issue, but it can be easy to be blinded in this game. I do the same thing in Kingdom Builder sometimes: you have 3 objectives that score points at the end and they change every game. I pour 100% into one, about 40% into a second one, and usually the third one I remember with about a turn to go. I am horrible at both games, no surprise there, yet I really enjoy them both a lot as well. If you tend to get caught up in progressing one area to the detriment of others, you might experience this as well.

 Functional is the best way to describe this game. There is variety in the scoring, sure. And each card is unique…sort of. They all have each of the four zones. They all have roads running through the cards. There are no special ones that are longer zones, or even interesting problems to work around with the roads (there is some variety in having curves, but nothing especially tricky in there). There is a lot of repetition in here that causes them all to blend together after a while, which is a shame because the initial reaction is that this is a great-looking set of cards.

 I know this is a microgame. It is designed to use as few things as possible. And yes, there are a ton of scoring conditions that change from game to game. Yet, at the end of the day, there is a lot of repetitive sameness in the game itself. If you like pursuing new strategies or competing against a friend, you’re out of luck here. This game excels at what it tries to do, but there is a limit to what it accomplishes because of the microgame format.

Final Thoughts

Let’s not mince words here: this game is a frustratingly fun and elegant design. It reminds me of playing SimCity on the PC, a game I was never very good at but also enjoyed playing. The same could be said right now for Sprawlopolis: I enjoy the game in spite of my terrible skill level. I’m pretty sure I am the worst Spawlopolis player on the planet, having managed only a single victory in all of my plays. Yet there has never been a time when I wasn’t having fun during the process of building my little 15-card city.

The variety in this game is mind-blowing, and I love the variance in both scoring and objectives that comes with every play of the game. They are both the best and worst part of the game: the best because every session feels different, and the worst because they can easily detract you from the static scoring conditions. My personal Achilles heel is trying to form blocks of 4 (in a square) of the same type of zone. I have had this appear, shockingly, on 50% of my plays. I’m yet to come close to winning any of them when this is in the mix.

As a solo gamer, I’m not usually one for games that task you with just trying to achieve a high score. However, this game does things in such an interesting way that I can’t see that ever getting old. Your score threshold to even win is going to change with every game, moving every time you get a new set of objectives to chase after. The bar is always shifting, making you try different approaches to building your little city with every play. Even after playing several times in a row, this game doesn’t wear out its welcome as a solo game. It is incredibly fast to setup or reset that busting out a few games is easy to do in an evening or even as a before-bed routine.

This won’t go down as the best microgame I’ve ever played, but it is definitely high up there. This was my first exposure to a Button Shy game, but it definitely won’t be the last. In terms of value for the price you pay compared to the experience you get, this game is off the charts. The gameplay in this package is worth many times more than the cost to purchase this game, making it a no-brainer to pick up for a solo gamer. If you enjoy cooperative games, this should also hit all of the right spots for you and your play group. If Circle the Wagons is even half as good as Sprawlopolis, then the picking these two games up will be the best $20 you can spend on board games. Period.


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