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.

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 · 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.


Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Sprawlopolis. 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.

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

Review for One – Scythe

Thank you for checking review #52 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 Scythe

Scythe is a game designed by Jamey Stegmaier and was published by Stonemaier Games. The box states that it can play 1-5 players and has a 90-115 minute play time and a BGG weight rating of 3.36.

It is a time of unrest in 1920s Europa. The ashes from the first great war still darken the snow. The capitalistic city-state known simply as “The Factory”, which fueled the war with heavily armored mechs, has closed its doors, drawing the attention of several nearby countries.

Scythe is an engine-building game set in an alternate-history 1920s period. It is a time of farming and war, broken hearts and rusted gears, innovation and valor. In Scythe, each player represents a character from one of five factions of Eastern Europe who are attempting to earn their fortune and claim their faction’s stake in the land around the mysterious Factory. Players conquer territory, enlist new recruits, reap resources, gain villagers, build structures, and activate monstrous mechs.

Each player begins the game with different resources (power, coins, combat acumen, and popularity), a different starting location, and a hidden goal. Starting positions are specially calibrated to contribute to each faction’s uniqueness and the asymmetrical nature of the game (each faction always starts in the same place).

Scythe gives players almost complete control over their fate. Other than each player’s individual hidden objective card, the only elements of luck or variability are “encounter” cards that players will draw as they interact with the citizens of newly explored lands. Each encounter card provides the player with several options, allowing them to mitigate the luck of the draw through their selection. Combat is also driven by choices, not luck or randomness.

Scythe uses a streamlined action-selection mechanism (no rounds or phases) to keep gameplay moving at a brisk pace and reduce downtime between turns. While there is plenty of direct conflict for players who seek it, there is no player elimination.

Every part of Scythe has an aspect of engine-building to it. Players can upgrade actions to become more efficient, build structures that improve their position on the map, enlist new recruits to enhance character abilities, activate mechs to deter opponents from invading, and expand their borders to reap greater types and quantities of resources. These engine-building aspects create a sense of momentum and progress throughout the game. The order in which players improve their engine adds to the unique feel of each game, even when playing one faction multiple times.

Setup and gameplay for 1 Player

Because this is a super-popular game, I won’t go into a ton of details here about anything except the Automa system for the game. Others have likely done a far better job at providing rules explanations and/or overviews of this game.

The Automa player uses the character, mechs, and workers of the chosen faction (as well as the military and population trackers and star tokens). There is a deck of cards that get shuffled and used that are double-sided, with the first side being used until the Automa places its first star. Then the deck reshuffles and flips, granting the Automa (generally)  stronger and more aggressive actions.

Possible actions from the Automa include moving a worker, moving a mech (either non-aggressive or aggressive), moving the character (usually to try and get to the factory). The movement style initially sounds intimidating, but really it is a smooth system with only a few parameters. They units/workers essentially “teleport” to a spot adjacent to at least one of their other units. For workers, it is usually the space closest to the most allied units. For mechs and the character, it is to either be adjacent to your units or closer to the factory. They also will often gain resources of some sort, whether in the form of more units or in coins. And they will almost always advance the cube one space on their difficulty card.

That difficulty card will tell you once the Automa has riverwalk and can cross outside of their territory. And it will identify the turns in which the Automa will earn a star. The Automa’s popularity is static, remaining at 10 for the entire game, but its power level can increase and is used during combat just like a player. In addition to the auto-triggered stars, the Automa can earn stars for winning combat and for maxing out their power.

Like the multiplayer game, the game will end when one player places their 6th star.

My Thoughts

 The more Automa systems I play, the more I like them as a solo gamer. This one intimidated me. It had a rulebook just for the Automa, after all. And not a small one. I had heard it was a challenge to operate. Well, it turned out that the Automa wasn’t bad to navigate after all. Much of that rulebook was giving demonstrations of movement, which is the key to the Automa. It wasn’t that thick, either, when I started getting into there. And wow, this Automa packs a punch in terms of challenge. After being confident from a Game 1 victory over Autometta, I went on quite a losing streak on the Automa difficulty. It is easy to navigate (usually) and provides a challenge. What more could a solo gamer ask for?

 Have you played Scythe with 2-players and wished for a little more combat/interaction? The Automa will deliver that in spades. Some would argue this is better solo than as a 2-player game and, depending on play styles and your expectations of the game, you might be right. This Automa will never turtle. It also is rarely predictable, since you don’t know which of X movement options will be drawn. You have an idea of what they might do. You can plan accordingly. But you’ll still always need to adapt and react at points when it does exactly what you didn’t want it to.

 As alluded to already, this game really feels like you’re playing against an active set of decisions rather than an arbitrary card draw. The deck of actions, and the operation of the Automa, hit upon the key decision points in the game. It isn’t about building stuff, or moving cubes on a player board. They key interactions happen on that map, using power to drive your opponents back or to keep control over the factory location. The Automa will never get into the 3rd tier of multiplier, the one good thing about it because it will dominate that map if you don’t do something about it. It is not uncommon for an unchecked Automa to control 11-15 territories. That’s a lot of points, plus it gains a coin or two in a good number of rounds. You need to be aggressive in order to stand a chance against the higher difficulties.

 Player aids. I cannot emphasize enough how important these are from taking a good game and making it a great experience. Not just the first play, but for every play. It helps keep things fresh in your mind as to what you can do, or what is necessary to execute. The player aids here come in the form of cards for the Automa, describing how to do each of the possible actions. Without these cards, there would inevitably be a lot of flipping through the Automa rulebook. Which would make this experience be far worse and less likely to hit the table. The Automa is very fun to play against. Those cards, though, are what makes this a perfect package for the solo gamer.

 The nice thing about playing solo is you can hand-pick both factions. Want a tight board? Make sure you and the Automa start as neighbors and they will be in your face early. Want a little time to get that engine started? Make sure you’re on opposite ends of the board. This is a best-case scenario as their faction powers don’t really impact the game (apart from a few cards that give added bonus to a specific faction).

 Multiple difficulties allow you to scale the game for your skill level. Even better is the ability to have several Automa factions in play. I don’t know that anyone would ever want to, but in theory you could have a way to play solo against all of the other factions. Because it isn’t a “beat your high score” system, that adds so much replay value to a great game. When you get to a point where you’re consistently winning, you can move on to the next challenge.

 The biggest deterrent to the game being played, as a solo gamer, comes in the setup. It isn’t the game’s fault. At a higher player count, the setup is exactly what you want for what you get out of the game. As a solo game, it is a little longer than I’d like. But there really isn’t any changing that. Streamlining organization, such as with a Meeple Realty insert, would help. But right now it is all in baggies, which is a clean organization system but it takes time to set up. Too often I’ve shoved Scythe off the list of games to play for an evening because I have X other games that I could be mid-game in by the time I’d be ready to start a round of Scythe.

 Scythe is a game that can feel notoriously long. Not so much in a solo game, unless you’re having to constantly look up how to make the Automa work. There is a cap on the number of turns you’ll get (seen on the Automa’s particular difficulty card) so you can get an idea exactly how many moves you’ll make. The problem with solo Scythe, and this ties into the above, is that it ends too fast. For the time it takes to setup and play the game, I want it to last a little longer in order to make that prep time feel worthwhile. This regularly clocks in under an hour, which is a perfect length for a solo game on a planned solo night.

 This is me complaining, but I wish that the factions did play differently for the Automa. That they had a card (at least one) that took advantage of a unique power or ability to set them apart like they are in a multiplayer game. Something to provide an X factor that needs to be planned for in case the deck happens to hate you and have it appear when you least want that to appear. I know, it would complicate an already seamless system. But for the base game factions at least (I think the Invaders from Afar factions do have some unique flare) they are just too samey when played by the Automa.

Final Thoughts

This is a game that provides a very satisfying solo experience whenever it hits the table. I have never walked away from a solo play of this feeling like I wasted my time that was spent. However, it runs into the same issue as Mage Knight: the setup and teardown prevent it from hitting the table as often. This game is nowhere near as burdensome as Mage Knight for that, but it is enough that I often think twice before grabbing the game. I prefer a game I can get into in about 5 minutes, but if I plan my session out ahead of time I can do some of that prep work earlier in the day (especially now that I have a game room!)

The best thing I can say about the solo game is that it truly feels competitive in the same way that a multiplayer game would. Yes, the Automa “cheats” with its movement method. Yes, it gets stars at predetermined times and its popularity track never moves. But it spreads throughout the board and places those stars quickly toward the end. It gets aggressive, and can use that to make a late-game push for victory. I’ve played the Automa over half-a-dozen times and I think I’ve won 2 games so far. Sadly, one of those was my first play (and I won by 1). It hands it to me in a way that I haven’t experienced as much in multiplayer games. And there are some who play against more than 1 Automa. I think they’re crazy, personally, but that is my thoughts on that option.

What seemed like a daunting Automa to pilot turned out to be really simple after a few turns. The reference cards for that Automa are really nice, and help with being able to keep things moving forward. I don’t have to memorize the movement style of each one and the different priorities. I just have to grab the corresponding reference card after flipping the Automa’s movement card. That is nice. This is definitely the most complex of the Automa systems I’ve played, but it really does a nice job of imitating player movement possibilities and does so without being overly taxing on the solo gamer.

And Scythe is one of those solo games that has provided me with those memorable situations. My most recent loss had them at 5 stars and I was at 3. It had a few more spots to get that next star, and I was going to nab one with every turn until I hit 6. It was perfect…as long as it drew anything but the Aggressive Mech card with its next action. I grabbed my star, leaving myself vulnerable for a single turn. It came at me with the mech. I played my one Combat Card, a 4, with the hope that it wouldn’t spend any of its cards or combat. I lucked out…it didn’t play cards. It just spent 5 power, enough to secure its 6th star and end my hope for a victory.

Those are the moments that stick with us as gamers. Reaching those “as long as X happens, I think I can win” moments. And then seeing how those play out from there.

This is a game that is hard to express just how satisfying the solo experience can be. Yet for the retail value of $80 MSRP, it would be difficult to recommend to someone who exclusively wanted it for solo gaming. Is it worth it? Yes, with the caveat that you play it enough times to feel it was worth that price. There are a ton of small-box solo games that could be purchased for the same amount, after all. I think it is worth it. I’d buy it again, even if I knew I would only get to play it solo.

If you’re likely to play with others, too, then it moves into a highly recommended game. The solo experience will make it a worthwhile addition on the shelf, and it is a game that I’ve enjoyed at all player counts (even 2). It provides a nice engine-building experience, and is very, very polished as a system and will be a staple in my collection for a long time.

Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Scythe. 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.

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

Review for One – Vast: The Crystal Caverns

Thank you for checking review #53 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: a review copy was provided in exchange for an honest review. I thought to review this one from the solo aspect when I had a hard time finding anything on BGG relating to the solo experience. There are plenty of reviews praising this game at 4-5 players to where I don’t need to retread that ground. It is great at that player count and super-unique.

An Overview of Vast: The Crystal Caverns

Vast: The Crystal Caverns is a game designed by Patrick Leder and David Somerville and was published by Leder Games. The box states that it can play 1-5 players and has a 75 minute play time and a BGG weight rating of 3.42.

The dragon has been asleep for many long years. In that time, the cave under which it slumbered has changed greatly…Goblins and strange monsters have filled its gloomy depths and there are whispers that the cave itself has begun thinking, shifting, and growing evermore dangerous.

Still, stories of peril rarely overshadow the rumors of riches. And riches there may be… For where a dragon slumbers, there also lies a fiercely guarded treasure. Fortunately for the slumbering beast, malevolent crystals fill the cave’s rooms with spectral light, hiding the entrance to the immeasurable treasure trove. Many have given their lives to the search and over the years the rumors have faded to legend.

But the most courageous adventurers will not be discouraged by bloodshed. On this day, a knight steps into the darkness, her gloved hand gripping the hilt of her sword. Her years of quests–all of the victories and defeats–have led to this one final adventure. Knowing the kingdom can never truly be at peace with the dragon beneath the cave, she has come to make a final stand. Little does she know that she will awake everything that slumbers in the shadows… and begin the final battle in the darkness.

Enter the world of Vast: The Crystal Caverns!

Vast takes you and your friends into the torch light of a classic cave-crawling adventure, built on the concept of total asymmetry. Gone are days of the merry band of travelers fighting off evil. In Vast, you will become part of a new legend… Any part you wish!

Play as the classic, daring Knight, the chaotic Goblin horde, the colossal, greedy Dragon, or even the Cave itself — powerful, brooding, and intent on crushing the living things that dare to disturb its gloomy depths. Each role has its own powers, pieces, and paths to victory…and there can be only one winner.

As the ultimate asymmetric board game, Vast: The Crystal Caverns provides a limitless adventure, playable again and again as you and your friends explore the four different roles in different combinations. Play one-on-one in a race to the death between the Knight and the Goblins, or add in the Dragon and the Cave for deeper and more epic experiences, different every time.

Setup and gameplay for 1 Player


Honestly, this one varies for each role and that will take far too much time to cover in this review format. Rather, here are the objectives for each role.

Knight – Find and smash crystals.

Goblins – Find and smash crystals.

Cave – Not playable in a solo game.

Dragon – Wake up and escape.

Thief – Find treasure and escape.

My Thoughts

 Each role in the game retains its unique flavor when playing as them in the solo mode. Even when objectives are the same from game-to-game, how you can get those accomplished will change drastically based on which role you’re playing as. This is that very asymmetry that provides the appeal for this game in the first place, and it was nice to find that it retains that when going into solo mode.

 If you have things organized by role in the box, setup on this can go fairly quickly. That is always an important factor for solo gaming, which helps make a game like this hit the table far more often than a game like Mage Knight (playtime differences aside – if I could set up the latter in 5 minutes it might actually get played more!). The longest part of setup is reading what the role you’re playing as can do, which should only take a lot of time the first time you use them. After that, a quick refresher by skimming the player board should get you going.

 The solo mode is an ideal place to familiarize yourself with how the role operates. You have a timer set by the cave tiles, but beyond that there is little interfering with your plans so you can test out how they function in a low-stress environment. You won’t be able to get the full grasp of their powers, as there will be cards/powers that don’t really function without another player. But half of the battle is learning how to operate the role (especially the goblins), and this is a great way to do that.

 The difficulty on this scales pretty well, as there are several difficulty cards for each role. This allows you to grow your skill level and provide a greater challenge – do more things which means you need to be faster. It isn’t necessarily the ideal way to scale a solo game, but it functions fine and it is great that you can work yourself up to a greater challenge.

 This ties into the expansion box of miniatures, but those are really awesome. They make the board presence more impressive, and are far more fun to move around than a cardboard standee or a wooden meeple version of the character. I’d hesitate to say it is a must-have addition to the game, but it really adds to the enjoyment of the game and makes for far better photography. Especially that awake dragon!

 It boils down to luck an awful lot in solo mode. You need to explore the right tile in order to find your objective, but you are limited in how many tiles you can flip before the cave begins to collapse. If you need to find, for instance, 6/9 crystal tiles then you might need a whole lot of luck. And what if three of them are on the very bottom of the tile stack? When one person does all the exploring, it can be rough. Add in the further randomized element of rolling that dragon die to reveal tiles (with some roles) and you have an even more challenging time. I lost with the goblins because I couldn’t reveal that last unflipped tile remaining as things were collapsing around the goblins. If it flipped, I won. That die roll didn’t flip it, and so I lost. Some people like that “stand up die roll” moment. Not me. Not in a solo game. If I lose, I want to feel like I could have improved and played differently. That roll just makes it feel like chance determined the game (even though there could have been moments, prior to that, where I could have improved. That isn’t the part that sticks in the crushing moments of defeat)

 While you can get a feel for each role, they are lacking in some of what makes them fun. Many of the Goblin cards were referring to other factions, none of which were in play (as an example) so they were dead cards being drawn to my hand. It lets me see what is in the deck, so there is some merit, but I couldn’t really utilize them.

 The solo system feels like there is so much potential to do more. I wrote my final thoughts first, so I came across this idea there originally, but this game feels like it needs an Automa for solo play. Imagine being able to always have five factions playing the game, regardless of player count! Suddenly those dead cards are usable. Suddenly the map might organically grow and/or be revealed to where you aren’t 100% dependent upon luck. Those crystal tiles, when revealed, might be destroyed if you aren’t quick enough to get to them. Those base game dynamics, clearly in play with 5, are able to be enjoyed regardless of player count. If there is a game that needs a good, functional Automa deck to make it shine, this would be the one.

 The rules for tile placement are clear in quantity, but there is no general rule for where to place them. This is something a player could easily manipulate to their advantage, building on continuously near their current location, making it easier to find and smash those crystals. I personally tried to spread out into a rectangular shape, giving balance to the construction of the cave. I like the growth of number of tiles coming out, but I wish it provided at least some direction as to where the tiles should be placed.

Final Thoughts

This is a difficult game to review from a solo experience. Realistically, this is a game meant to be played with 5 players and anything below that is a sub-optimal situation. And it really shows. You lose that tug-of-war appeal where every role is vying for a victory condition that depends, in some part, on at least one of the other roles on the board. When looking at this for a solo game, it doesn’t lose balance but it definitely loses some of the interesting flare that makes this so unique.

However, that isn’t to say that the solo play on Vast: The Crystal Caverns is bad. Or that it lacks excitement. It becomes a puzzle that is part luck, part optimization, part leveling-up your comfort level with a particular role. Your objective, for most of them, is to simply find and smash X crystals in order to win the game. There is nothing wrong with that, as it can be a primary focus in a game with more players. And even with the shared objectives, how each role accomplishes that is unique enough to keep plays interesting across all roles.

I do wish there was a way for the Cave to be playable, but I have no ideas on how that could be implemented. It is that role which draws players in for a larger game, but without a solo mode there is little chance to refine your skill with that role. Honestly, this game is probably the perfect sort of game for an Automa system that has a deck of cards, and each card shows what the 5 roles do (you would just skip any not in the game). Not only would this make solo play a little more interesting and challenging, it would also allow someone to get a 5-player simulated experience even with 2-3 players at the table. Designing said solo system, especially to incorporate the expansion roles, might prove too large of a task for anyone. But it is the solo experience this game needs to propel it from good to great.

As it stands, I enjoy Vast. It is the game I’ll give serious consideration to pulling out if I have 4-5 players interested in a game. The asymmetry of the game is brilliant and makes it fun, even if it isn’t the best game on my shelf. It will almost always provide a good time to the players. It is unfortunate that the solo game is just good. I like that I can get familiar with how the Goblins operate, which will allow me to play them better in a group setting. I like how it can scale in difficulty to present greater challenges. But the game is far too luck dependent as a solo game to really excel as a game that can hit the table often for the solo gamer.

If you want a game that you can play and enjoy solo but is exponentially better for every player you add, then this is definitely one to consider for your collection. But if you almost always play it with 1-2 players, I’d have a hard time recommending this one because there are far better options at those player counts.


Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Vast: The Crystal Caverns. 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.

Board Gaming · Solo Gaming · Solo Month · Uncategorized

Interview with Artem Safarov from Altema Games

If you missed it, yesterday I posted my review of Unbroken. This game is a solo-only game that completely shattered every stretch goal imaginable on Kickstarter and has caught the attention of the solitaire gaming community. Be sure to check out the Kickstarter page to learn more about it, which will be linked at the bottom of this post.

But, more importantly, I was able to convince Artem to answer some questions regarding his newest game, along with a few other things.


1. I love the story behind your newest game, Unbroken, where you’re the lone survivor and exacting revenge on the monsters. What inspired that game concept?
Unbroken is inspired by an actual expedition in the computer game Darkest Dungeon that went terribly wrong. It’s a game that prides itself on being punishing – perma-death and all that. You get to take four adventurers into each expedition. I had three of mine die a horrible death at the hands of foul pig-monsters. The only one who was left had to make their way back to safety with very little health and supplies – it was one of the more memorable gaming experiences for me.
Aside from that particular story – Unbroken is a game that centers around perseverance in the face of adversity. Standing up after being knocked down. Lemonade when life gives you lemons. I love an underdog story and am always inspired of what people achieve in spite of obstacles on their way. Unbroken is a game about not giving up no matter how bad the circumstances.

2. What was the most challenging part of designing Unbroken? How did you overcome that obstacle?


Getting different monsters of the same level to provide comparable yet unique challenges. This is a big defining feature of Unbroken – it offers a flexible challenge that can come in different ways – is it a monster with impenetrable armor? Is it an enemy whom you have to overcome through cunning? A hungry beast that chows through all your food? Creating these different subsystems and balancing these to put up equal-difficulty obstacles on the player’s way was not easy. I wish I could tell you that there was an epiphany that led to a solution but instead (like with everything else in life) the solution was a lot of hard work to take all the details into account and to carefully craft all the different pathways in which the game can challenge you.

3. Unbroken is a solo-only game. What motivated you to create a game that could only be played by one player? 

Marketing, children and laziness. Let me explain 🙂
Marketing-wise it was my desire to not compete in highly contended markets of .. well, pretty much any other market in boardgaming that I can think of is highly contested. I mean – if you make a 2-4 player game that plays in about an hour – good luck standing out versus the beloved juggernauts that are out there. The same is true for games made for a two-player experience, or a 6-8 player party/social game. Solo-focused games to me was a market that did not have that many major players (Friday? Hostage Negotiator?) and one that was rising in popularity.
Children – because as a dad of two young boys getting out of the house is tough to arrange – for games or anything else. So oftentimes I am left all by my lonesome looking at my wall of games and knowing I want to play something. I had this inkling that I was not the only person with a wall of games and noone to play them with. So I decided to give my fellow parent nerds out there something they can enjoy by themselves in a compact timeframe.

Laziness – because development and playtesting of a solo game is ridiculously efficient. You know how fast is it to run a playtest of a 30-minute solo game? You just sit down and do it. Finding blind testers was so much easier than for my past multi-player efforts. It’s just easy, so it appeals to my natural desire to achieve my goals with minimum effort :).

4. You mention on your Kickstarter that Unbroken spent a year in public playtesting. How did that playtesting transform the game? Looking back on the process, would you do that again?


Oh wow, yes, absolutely I’d do it again. I can’t wait to release the Unbroken expansion to public testing first so that people can pick it apart and help me cut all the things that are not awesome. In fact there were so many small tweaks to Unbroken over that year that I can’t put my finger on any single one – their collective value of making the game balanced and fair is hard to overestimate. For once the time tracker started going backwards to 0 as opposed to going up from 0 to some level-specific number. That was such a neat fix. Another cool change is that the monster cards initially had to be pre-shuffled and put in order before play could start. A tester suggested players just roll to randomize which monster they face – this cut the setup time considerably and removed necessity to awkwardly shuffle awkward cards.

5. You included one of my favorite stretch goals in the history of Kickstarters: exclusive backstories for the monsters in the game. What inspired this stretch goal? How many did you have prepared before the launch of your Kickstarter? What has been your favorite one to write?


Great question! I think it came from the fact that I wanted each monster in Unbroken to have a unique identity to them – something that would set them aside as more than just a set of stats. I mean yes, they all should feel different mechanically and pose different challenges, but I also wanted to make sure that they exist as more than just obstacles to be overcome. Thinking about it was a fun way to get inside the heads of the monsters who are such staples of fantasy RPGs – I think I was inspired in this with the way that webcomics like Order of the Stick and Goblins deal with this material, taking these perspectives seriously. To me it adds to the tense, dangerous atmosphere of Unbroken – this personalization of enemies, evil and cruel as they are, adds weight to the battles and their outcomes. My favourite so far was the Wererat – a story of a scorned love and unexpected vindication.

6. If you had to sum up in one sentence the experience a player will get when playing Unbroken, what would it be?


“Die Hard in a dungeon”. Rahdo said it and I’m not even going to try to beat the concise precision of that.

7. How can someone who missed the Kickstarter campaign get a copy of Unbroken? 


Head over to the Kickstarter page – there should be a late-pledge option for some time after the campaign itself closes.

8. Where can someone go to keep up with you, the progress of Unbroken’s fulfillment, and the design of your next game?

Unbroken fulfillment will be mostly communicated through Kickstarter updates. For all the other stuff and to chat about anything and everything – the social media channels await! I do tend to talk a lot about gaming with kids and Lord of the Rings, fair warning :).
Thanks for this opportunity. Had fun with this interview and am grateful for all who are backing or considering to back Unbroken.

Artem Safarov, Founder of Altema Games and Game Designer

Artem has a powerful passion for games, numbers and the creative process. He cherishes opportunities to combine mathematical models with a well-applied theme to create unique and memorable gaming moments. In his experience as a Game Master for RPGs, Artem learned that setting the stage and mood of any game will have a dramatic effect on players’ enjoyment. His professional experience as a project manager helps keep all Altema work on track. Artem’s current main role is as a father to a rapidly growing 3-year old Alan.

Favourite games: Lords of Waterdeep, Eldritch Horror, Middle Earth Quest, Robinson Crusoe, Space Hulk: Death Angel.

Be sure to check the game’s Kickstarter page out, as it isn’t too late to snag a copy of this game!

Solo Month is coming in May


That’s right, I’ve decided to make an entire month where I pump out content related to solo gaming. I’m really excited about this, as I noticed a lot of my reviews lately have centered around the 2-player experience. My board gaming habits end up logging about 20-25% solo plays, and so far my reviews haven’t reflected that sort of balance. So this May I will be working to show off some excellent solo games via reviews, a few previews, and have a couple of interviews with voices in the solo gaming hobby. Here is a tentative lineup of the content I am looking to produce during the month of May (in no particular order):

1: Lord of the Rings: The Card Game review

2: Friday review

3: One Deck Dungeon review

4: Mage Knight Board Game review

5: Review that YOU help decide, over on my Patreon page!

6: Feature on Aeon’s End as a solo game

7: Feature on Nemo’s War (2nd Edition)

8: Interview with Morten Monrad-Petersen (hopefully)

9: Interview with one or two of the guys from Low Player Count

10: Quick hits reviews (3-5 solo print & play game reviews, including 9 Card Siege & Mini Rogue)

As a bonus, I am hoping to do a giveaway or two (or three) during the month. Supporting me on Patreon is a way to help me grow the capabilities of this channel, improving the quality of the content and allowing me to eventually explore providing reviews, run-throughs, and live playthroughs of board games. For as little as $1 a month, you can help my channel grow. Giveaways are another thing that Patreon will allow me to provide, and so what I give away in May will be tied to that as “stretch goals” for the solo month. There will be the content provided no matter what, but your support will allow me to give back a little to my readers/supporters:

If I hit $25 then I will give a random Patron (U.S. only) my copy of Chrononauts, a game I had strong praise for last year as a solo game (Review can be found here:… )

If I hit $50 then I will also give away a NIS copy of either Friday or One Deck Dungeon to a random Patron.

If I hit $100 then I will also give away a NIS copy of Agricola: Master of Britain from Hollandspiele to a random Patron.

Check out my Patreon page here:


Which of the planned pieces of content are you most excited about? What solo game would you like to see a review on (this could help me to plan my next solo purchase!)?