Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Solo Gaming - Spring 2020

top left: NEOM top right: Friday
bottom left: Nemo's War bottom right: Desolate
I started doing a lot of solo gaming when my oldest son (and chief gamer buddy) left for college in August. Even with him home (his university closed their dorms in mid-March), I've still been playing solo games.

I know, I know - there are plenty of board game apps on iOS and Steam... and I own many of them. But there's something really satisfying about physically playing a game: shuffling cards, moving pieces, seeing it all spread out in front of you. 

So, what follows are my thoughts on a variety of solo games I've played this spring.

An incredibly pleasant flip'n'write game that works like a charm as a solo game... and will also work well as a "over Facetime/Zoom" game if you use the solo rules for monster attacks. I'm glad it's in my collection.

A print'n'play space survival game... the files are now free from PNP Arcade. It's a lot of inkjet ink for a pretty straightforward solo game. I like it best with the two expansions thrown in - I think there's more decision-making involved and it's easier to set the difficulty level using the characters.

Dice Settlers
I bought this from a friend (hi, Janna!) primarily for solo play - and while I'm still having to fiddle a bit with the scoring numbers to make the AI competitive, it actually flows really well as a "big" solo game. I was pleasantly surprised that it works well as a 2-3 player game too. I managed to find a copy of the Western Sea expansion - which really ups the variety and makes the solo game more compelling.

Friedemann's wacky deck-builder about keeping Robinson Crusoe alive is still one of the best 1 player games out there. I can't recommend it highly enough. (It was on my Top 50 games list earlier this year.)

Marvel Champions: The Card Game
While Fantasy Flight has struggled to get the hero and villain packs out in ways that people can find them (and the current situation isn't going to make that any easier), I love the really straightforward design of the game and the way it captures the theme. I tend to play 2 heroes when playing solo - though the game is designed to play with a single hero.

For those who've played other LCGs (Living Card Games), this is less complicated than any of the others... some would say "dumbed down". (Sigh.) I find it the easiest to play and teach, due to clear card wording, distinctive superhero graphics, and card design that is relatively easy to read across the table.

Nemo's War
The other solo game that was in my Top 50 games list)... it manages to blend Euro mechanics and old-school wargame elements along with a compelling theme. On top of that, the various objectives change the game and how you play by just changing the scoring to reflect Nemo's vision of a "better" world.

I love this multi-player game that mixes city-building and 7 Wonders-ish drafting... and the solo game manages to capture most of that feeling through the clever use of "packets" of tiles. I played two games of this solo last weekend back to back.

Oh My Goods!
Solo play requires the Longsdale in Revolt expansion... but there are some clever things going on in this tricky little card game. I'm also looking forward to finding the second expansion (more scenarios for solo play) and Expedition to Newdale (the board game version of this same world which I really enjoyed playing last fall). Oh My Goods ranks up with Friday and Palm Island for the best games for solo play in small places (like hotel room desks).

Palm Island
This is a weird little deck-builder[?] that I'm not sure entirely works... you hold your entire deck in your hand (17 cards) and flip and turn cards based on resources on the cards. It's kind of fiddly and I'm not sure I know how to get a better score... yet I keep playing it.

Roll for Adventure
A recent co-op game from Kosmos with built-in expansions to increase the difficulty/change the puzzle. It's a dice-driven push-your-luck game with a fantasy theme draped over it. I typically play solo with two random characters. (BTW, solo or multi-player, I like this game much better with 2-3 players/characters than with 4... it feels like the game plays you with four players.)

Roll Player
One of two "RPG character creation" board games from last year... but with the expansion added in, Roll Player is the best choice for solo play. (In fact, I think this is one of the "required" expansions for multi-player play as well... it offers more variety and more options for players on their turn. Most importantly, it gives the game an ending via fighting the big boss that is much more satisfying than "hey, look - I built a character".)

This is THE original co-op game... it actually won a special Spiel des Jahres recognition as a cooperative game back in 1988. The problem is that I never feel like I have much control of the game.

Star Wars: Outer Rim
My oldest son and I both love playing this dive into the Star Wars universe - it's a pick up & deliver game with copious thematic elements. The game comes with a solo AI card deck that works... but it isn't a particularly compelling way to play. I'm not likely to solo this one again - but it will hit the table as a multi-player.

Super-Skill Pinball
I blogged about this last week at the Opinionated Gamers site... this is a really great roll'n'write design that was very enjoyable solo and multi-player. See my blog post for information on how to get the preview pinball table right now!

The Pursuit of Happiness
I continue to adore this gamer-friendly version of The Game of Life... and the newest expansion arriving required me to pull it out and play both multi-player and solo. The solo mode is well-thought-out.. players must beat a particular long-term happiness score as well as complete 3 life goals - which can be challenging. (The new expansion and the various Kickstarter extras just continue to add content and variety to this robust system... the delight of creating a life story is a lot of fun.) You can read my original review here.

Not related in any way to the excellent WWII biography... this fantasy survival game has nice production (for a solo game) and is in the same vein game-wise as the aforementioned Desolate: make decisions on what to face, press your luck, and try not to run out of supplies. It works... but I wonder if I'll be played out on it after 5+ plays.


Thinking about buying and/or trading for some new games based on my post (and how long you're likely to be practicing physical distancing)?

If you're new to solo gaming, I'd suggest Cartographers and Friday. For those with a more gaming under their belts, I'd go with Nemo's War, Expedition to Newdale (board game version of Oh My Goods), and NEOM.

And all of us will have to wait for fall 2020 for the full version of Super-Skill Pinball. (sad face)

On My List To Play Solo Soon
  • Dungeon Alliance with the second Adventure Pack
  • Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy
  • Agricola with Farmers of the Moor
  • Hotshots
  • Space Cadets: Away Missions
  • The Colonists


cvossgo said...

You forgot two more great games that is typically not played solo but does have the capability and works great: Outer Rim and Terra-forming Mars.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...


Outer Rim is actually in the post (under "Star Wars: Outer Rim") - I love the game but don't think it shines as a solo game.

I've only played Terraforming Mars once - and I don't own a copy. I've heard great things about it as a solo game.

William Manning said...
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