$18.00
GeekGold Bonus for All Supporters: 106.91

6,658 Supporters

$15 min for supporter badge & GeekGold bonus
42% of Goal | left

Support:

Recommend
14 
 Thumb up
 Hide
7 Posts

Terraforming Mars» Forums » Variants

Subject: Speeding up Solo play rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Jonathan Fryxelius
Sweden
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
[EDIT]: This is my personal preferences, not endorsed officially by FryxGames. Of course, FryxGames encourages every player to follow all rules as they they are written in the rulebook.

[EDIT]: Even I think that these rules should be avoided until you've played at least ten games of your own. You should be well acquainted with all the rules of the game before making these adjustments.

As I've now played approximately 100 solo sessions of TM, I've found ways to speed it up. As a rule, of course, these tips and tricks don't actually give you any advantage, they just save time. I've played 2 full solo games in 70 minutes with these rules.

1. Don't think of the 1-2 actions per turn rule. Of course, since you are the only player, you may do as many actions as you want in one generation. This felt quite obvious from the start. Trading 24 heat for 3 temperature steps in one go also feels more awesome than doing it in three steps.
2. Allow undo:s. The only element of surprise in TM is the card draw and opponents' actions. Since there are no opponents in the solo game mode, the only surprise you get is the card draw. Therefore, as long as you have not drawn any cards, you may undo any action you've performed this generation. This saves you the time of simulating every possible turn in your head before moving. Try something, if that doesn't give the effect you like, undo and redo. Note that this doesn't in any way give you an advantage, it only saves time. (Please note though, that if a card you have played has given you a bonus, that bonus must also be undone. This can include discounts, placement bonuses and triggered effects).
3. Allow sellbacks for 3M€ for cards bought this research phase. As long as you haven't drawn any new cards since then, you may sell the cards you just bought for 3M€ instead of selling them with a standard project. This is based on the same reasoning as point 2. You could play out the entire generation in your head before deciding what to buy, but that is time-consuming.
4. Don't place owner markers on tiles. Instead, only mark the neutral cities and greeneries. All other tiles belong to you.

The following rules can be added if you feel you are in good control of the game. They demand your focus, honesty, and reliable memory. But if you have those qualities, these rules also save time without really giving you any advantage. They may also make the game a little bit more complex, so only use them if you have everything under control:
5. Allow buying cards from the last research phase later in the generation. Note that this is not allowed if you at any time during your turn have had less than 3M€ to spare (because this means that if you had bought the card from the start, you couldn't have played out your turns as you have). A safer way to go is buy all 4 cards every turn, and selling them back as per rule 3 if you decide you don't want them.
6. Instead of taking 8 heat production, raise the temperature 1 step right away. This is only allowed if you have already taken M€ income. I always take income in the order of the player board. This is just for saving time fiddling with cubes that anyway will be traded for temperature increase in 20 seconds. Plants can be traded for greenery and oxygen in the same manner. Remember that this is actually done after the research phase, even though we save time doing it right away. This means that if you draw cards with requirements in the research phase that cannot be played because of the new increases, you may undo those increases before continuing with your new generation.

Do you have any other tips and tricks for a fast solo game?
14 
 Thumb up
2.25
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dave
United States
Muncy
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Great ideas. I already do #1 and #2. #3 is a good idea too, and one I will feel "better" about doing! I don't want to do #4 because I like seeing my cubes out there!

#5 and #6 I'll have to see how they fit into my flow. I appreciate the tips!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mokey D Luffy
msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I think that 6 could prove tricky, mainly because there are ways to draw cards during your turn. Yes, immediate trades of heat and plants saves time. However, then I place an ocean tile that draws a card, and I get a card that triggers in some way with what I did, or does it more efficiently, allowing me better ways to have used those plants or heat. Now, I am backtracking all of it, trying to remember which ones they were, what triggered, how to reset it so that I can do everything better.

Part of this is the fact that I just played Helion, where I could use heat for Megacredits. Unless there were specific reasons I wanted to raise the temperature, I actually did it very late each generation just in case I drew into things that would let me use heat for currency.

I do like 1-4, though, especially selling your most recently purchased cards back as long as you have not seen any new ones. That makes sense in a solo game, and definitely wouold cut down on the time spent thinking during that part of the game.

Oh, and my Helion attempt failed when I was two plants short of putting out my final greenery. It was devastating.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andre Dorow
Germany
Zuelpich-Geich
flag msg tools
Hi, fellow TM gamers,

I figured out most of Jonathan's nice suggestions on my own, and can confirm, they work well. 
I have here…
… some comments to the suggestions from Jonathan,
… some additional time-saving ideas, and also
… some solo player tips and hints

-------------------

Let's start with my comments first:

@ 4 - Don't place owner markers
I made different experiences, and also find them confirmed in the forums here: People tend to forget steps like e.g. increasing the TR score after placing a tile, because placing a tile triggers a lot of additional steps, like the map bonuses and maybe +2 MC per adjacent ocean tile, which in turn may trigger more actions, like receiving 2 plants to your 6 plants in stock, so you build and place the next greenery right away etc... (solo play = unlimited actions, remember? See Jonathan's item #1)
Placing the owner cube kind of divides the action sequence:
My first sequence is the "tile related" part: paying for the tile, placing the tile, and getting all the terrain and placement bonuses from the map.
My second sequence is the "cube related" part: Placing my owner cube on the tile, shifting the (e.g.) oxygen cube, then moving my TR score cube. My "3-cubes-rule"… (ocean tiles: consider the cubes as a symbol for the actions ;-)
So, placing my owner cube at least helps ME to not forget increasing my TR score, which means: my valued and desperately needed MC income... ;-)

@ 6 - increasing e.g. temperature right away instead of collecting heat (cubes) first
Nice idea on the first glance. But I often find it important to watch the sequence of actions carefully. Example:

a) I increase temp in advance, as suggested
b) I receive a heat production bonus (in this example),
c) increase my TR score,
d) play a project card "X", deal with the costs and effects of this project,
e) then find out that the temp is now too high for my project "Y", so I
f) take back my project "X", undo its effects (to avoid that they influence my project "Y")
g) undo the temp increase
h) now play my forgotten project "Y", fuss around with its payment and effects,
i) ah yes, now the temp increase I already paid for…
j) … so that I can play+pay+resolve my initial project "X"
k) oh, the temp increase gives me the heat production increase,
l) and also increases my TR score, yay...

Done. Finally. Really? In fact I made 2 mistakes, as you surely already noticed:
- I forgot to undo the heat production bonus b) when undoing the temp increase g)
- I received 2 TR points instead of 1 TR: see c) and l)
So I would not do steps in advance (like Jonathan suggested), but instead wait for the proper moment, even if it takes a few seconds longer, it is way less confusing and may help avoiding mistakes.
But to support Jonathan's initial idea behind this, I have a suggestion, which brings us to the next chapter:

-------------------

My additional time saving ideas:

7. I always use my player marker/cubes or other appropriate things instead of dealing with the related resource cubes. Examples:

- 1 greenery tile on my player board instead of 8 plants. This is also a nice reminder, that I'm able to play a greenery. It also avoids counting/checking my plant cubes over and over again. I replace 8 cubes with a greenery always asap. If I have 5 plants and would get 4, I instead drop the silver cube and take 1 greenery tile and a copper cube.

- 8 heat are replaced directly by 1 of my player cubes. The player cube is not used directly, it is a reminder on my board, which I discard when increasing temp. I find this easier, because 2 player cubes + 1 copper make it way more obvious for me, than 12 copper and 1 silver. In addition, my player CUBE also reminds me to deal with my other CUBES (e.g. TR score)…

- There are blue cards with a red action arrow that require resources, e.g. "steel production": pay 4 energy to gain 2 steel and 1 oxygen. Sorry, I don't know the English card names, but I'm sure you know them. You have to use your player marker/cube to indicate, that this action is being used for this generation. In my production phase, if I get +6 energy, I instead take the "action" player cube + 2 copper. My "action" cube in my energy storage prevents me from forgetting the steel production. And it also saves me taking 4 copper from the bank and later put them back, when it is obvious that I will use "steel production" anyway. When using the "steel production", I simply take my player cube from the board and place it on the red arrow of the card. Payment and marking in one single move…


8. I keep the number of resource cubes as low as possible, so I can see the exact amount, instead of counting them over and over again. Examples:

- I immediately change my resource cubes, so I never have 5 copper or 2 silver in one resource.

- I don't put/collect 5 copper and then replace them with a silver. When I GET resource, I first check what I HAVE and
pick cubes BEFORE I take cubes from the bank. E.g.: If I get 3, I first pick my 2 copper, then get 1 silver from the bank.

- During the production phase I distribute and pick up resource cubes "on the fly". This means, I don't put cubes back in the tray/bank or take them from bank for each resource individually, but instead keep them in my hand. Example: +2 energy, +1 plant,+2 steel income: I pick up 3 copper from energy and place 1 silver there. 1 of the 3 copper then goes directly to the plants, the remaining 2 to the steel. So I took only 1 silver from bank instead of grabbing 5 tiny copper with my not so tiny fingers…
In addition, I have a few cubes each ready beside my player board, so I can grab them quickly and need to move them only a few centimeters.


All this may sound minor, maybe unimportant or even pedantic, but consider how often you count cubes, pay cubes, receive cubes, grab cubes...
Isn't 2 gold + 2 copper (MC) more telling than 3 silver + 7 copper? Or 1 greenery tile + 1 copper (plants) compared to 9 copper? Isn't it better to have 1 player "action" cube on energy instead of 4 copper, to remind you of your "steel production"? Or 2 player cubes on heat, which indicate that I'm capable of increasing temp by 2 steps any time I want to, by simply dropping a player cube instead of fussing around with 8 copper, or 1 gold and get back 2 copper etc.?
For me it is definitely worth doing it. It also helps me having my brain free to concentrate on the really important stuff and better follow my ideas and plans without being distracted by stupid math and pushing cubes all the time.

-------------------

Summary, in addition to Jonathan's excellent suggestions:

- pay and place a tile and get rewards first, then
- place your player cube to remind you of the "3-cubes-rule" -> avoid forgetting TR track
- have 1 granary tile instead of 8 copper/plants on your board
- use 1 player cube per 8 heat
- use e.g. 1 player "action" cube instead of 4 energy/copper for your "steel production"
- exchange your resource cubes immediately - to have as few cubes on your board as possible
- during production phase: exchange and distribute cubes "on-the-fly" (from/into hand)

-------------------

And finally some tips and hints (not sorted, kind of brainstorming only):

1. The main goal is to WIN. High score doesn't matter if you lose. This is why I mainly ignore cards that (often only) build victory points as its (mostly) only purpose. These are cards with e.g. animal or bacteria icons. The same goes for cards with a "higher" requirement: A good card, that needs 3 science icons to play, is not good in solo play. You are tempted then to collect science cards instead of collecting TR points more directly. As described in detail in this forum, I'm glad for those "currently useless" cards, because they save my money, and I'm not tempted to buy too much cards instead of concentrating on important cards and saving my money for them.

2. Most cards are rewarding only, if you pick them early in the game. These are mainly cards that improve your economy.
If you pick them later in the game, don't buy them. Example: A card costs 12 bucks plus 3 to buy it. It increases your MC income by +2. If you are in generation 11, you obviously burn your money with it: You pay 15, but will get back 6 only.
I do this kind of calculation for every card I intend to buy. Ignore those cards, even if it hurts.

3. "Card" projects are often cheaper than the "standard" projects. E.g. most asteroids, which bring (an) ocean tile(s) and/or temp increase, are cheaper, especially if you can pay partially with titanium. Same goes e.g. for a special "nature preservation" greenery, which is a building (icon) and thus can also be paid by steel. Doing, so, your steel and titanium resources are directly converted into money.

4. Due to tip #2, you will buy most of the initial 10 cards, as well as most of the 4 cards during the first few generations. It most likely takes up to 5 or even 7 generations to get your economy up and running, before you start playing cards (except for a few cheap cards, if you were lucky to draw them). As an average, I play around 35 cards per game. During the last 3-5 generations I hardly play cards. On the contrary, if I lack of ocean, I buy them via "standard", instead of waiting for an asteroid or some other water project, which might never come. In fact, I usually have an income of 40-50 bucks during the last 3 generations, which allows me to "buy" e.g. 3 ocean + 6 temp + 4 oxygen from "standard" projects. that is usually sufficient to fulfill all 3 goals within the final generation.

5. Place ocean tiles before greenery, to profit from the +2 MC bonus for each adjacent ocean tile. If necessary, buy them from "standard", do not wait for asteroids to drop by. Place 2 oceans adjacent The second will give you already +2 from the first ocean. A greenery then will give you +4 MC. Look at the map. There are spots, where a greenery (or city or any other tile) can have 3 adjacent oceans to give you +6. This may not sound much, but especially during the first generations 6 or even 10 bucks is a lot. Not to mention the +1 TR increase per ocean. One ocean for 18 bucks in generation 1 will pay you back 13 bucks (due to TR increase). The same ocean placed in generation 13 will pay back 1 buck only. Not to mention the +2 MC bonuses you will collect and desperately need in the beginning, not in the end phase of the game.

6. Cities are good for victory points, but they do not contribute to WIN the game. They do not increase temp or oceans or oxygen. Well, they mostly do increase your income by +1 or even more, but if you afford to build a city in generation 6, you will get back 8 bucks only, for a cost of 23 bucks. Don't burn your money… ;-)
Usually I have maybe 1 city, because I got a "special" city (e.g. the "dome city" for 16 MC) which increases my MC income by +3 (and decreases my energy production by -1). It is worth building early in the game, because the payback is high enough, and it also allows me to place my greenery tiles "elsewhere" (Rule: I have to place my greenery adjacent to MY tiles. If I start with greenery, I'm doomed to put all subsequent greenery around there. But if I have a tile with my player cube somewhere else, I can also place greenery there.)

7. Many cards require e.g. a high temp (e.g. mangroves) or high oxy level. Most likely you will reach those levels only very late in the game. Sometimes the cards are worthless until then. Example: In most games I have already reached 14% oxygen (by lots of greeneries, due to my huge plant production, or the "steel production" and the like). But temp is not high enough. Even if I reach the required +2 or +4°C eventually, I could play the card, but the reward - plus 1 oxygen - is useless now, because I already have max oxy. In general, I ignore all cards that require more than half of the oxygen or half of the temp. They will come into play too late, and their reward might not apply.

8. Cards that allow you to place a tile (restricted area, mining, nuclear bomb etc. - even if they provide negative VP) are worth considering, because by placing such a tile you can directly select a(ny) placement bonus from the map, maybe you get money back (+2 per adjacent ocean), or get exactly the 2 plants you need to build the next greenery, which in turn increases your oxy level and income for the remaining rounds (+1 TR is +1 MC). Consider those chain effects. Consider also, that those additional tiles allow you to build your greenery "elsewhere", so you can maybe make better use of the +2 ocean bonuses in another area of the map, e.g. by getting on the other side of the "ocean belt".

9. In addition to tip #2 (calculating the payback of a card): I always calculate the reward of a card in MC. This means, if a card provides me with e.g. +2 heat production, I convert heat into MC by considering 8 heat (in 4 rounds) as 14 MC (the cost of the "standard project"). Which is 14/4 = 3.5 let's say 4 MC per round. Assuming 7 rounds to go (ca. 28 MC), I would buy this card if it is considerably cheaper than 25 MC. Don't forget to "add" the 3 MC you have to spend for buying a card. So I would buy such a card e.g. in round 8 or earlier, but not in round 9 or later.
Following the same logic, I consider a +1 titanium production increase as a +3 MC increase (with the risk of not being able to spend (all) the titanium).
Gaining an oxygen is worth 23 MC (standard greenery project) etc.
When comparing the benefit with the cost, I always subtract the MC from the card cost, which I can NOW pay via steel or titanium. I consider steel/titanium resources itself as "useless", I do not "count" them as MC in general, because it is not sure that I will be able to spend them all. A 15-MC-card that rewards me with 8 MC -> no! The same card, paid via 7 steel plus 1 MC -> yes, as long as I have no other plans with them, and no way to get more than 8 MC out of my 7 - otherwise useless - steel.
This should help you to decide whether to buy or skip a card. This is a simple approach, if you are uncertain. If you know that you need/want a card, or that card fits into your tactics - don't waste time in calculating the benefit, just buy it.

-------------------

Summary of my tips:

- ignore cards that do not help improving your economy early in the game
- ignore cards that do not help achieving the 3 goals
- ignore cards that mainly collect VP
- ignore cards that do not pay back (calculate the MC equivalent and remaining rounds for comparison)
- ignore cards that require too high temp/oxy/oceans or too much specific icons (e.g. science)
- place oceans early to benefit from the +2 bonus and push your MC income early (TR score)
- build a city only if it is cheaper than standard, and only if it helps to access more rewarding granary places
- consider cards with "tiles", which allow you to pick specific map bonuses that will allow subsequent actions

-------------------

All these strategies help me to win ca. 90% of the games. No matter with which company. In fact, I do not draw them, I just play each of them by cycling through the company deck (including the standard beginner's company). This is also a challenge, because it "forces" me to deal and collect experiences with companies I usually would not select.
The "price" for my 90%-win-rate is my victory point rate. I hardly have more VP than the minimum you automatically get by achieving all 3 goals (9 ocean + 14 oxy + 19 temp steps = 42 VP). Together with my 10-12 greenery VPs and maybe 3 VPs from a city, and maybe 2-4 VPs I unintentionally got from my cards, and the basic 14 TR income, it is a total of ca. 75 VP minimum. Trying to focus a little more on VPs during game usually lets me fail.
It appears that you can hardly afford to miss the benefit of an early card, when you buy a VP card instead. Vice versa - during the last 1 or 2 rounds, when it is "obvious" that you win, you will hardly draw a useful card with VP. Even if you are lucky, one or two VP more or less do not change that much… ;-)

So the real challenge in my opinion as a wanna-be-advanced gamer is not to win, but to build up a VP "generator", that does not kill my victory, but that is powerful enough to provide me with a considerable amount of VP. My highscore so far is 89 VP (I forgot with which company).

What are your strategies and ideas? Which VP "generators" do you use? How much MC do you spend? In which phase of the game? How many VP (from cards only) do you achieve then? Which VP cards are (not) worth playing?

Oh, did I mention that I like TM very, very much? In my opinion the best solo play ever. Thank you so much, Fryxelius clan! 

6 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Doug Cooley
United States
Portland
Oregon
flag msg tools
Me rocking out with my band, which you can hear at www.raindriver.com
mbmbmbmbmb
I always forget to advance the generation tracker solo, so I start by dealing out fourteen piles of four cards each, then when there aren't any more to take I know the game is over.

If you use a drafting variant (take one of four, one of three, one of two, then one of one), you can just deal out a single card to each pile to preserve the timer function.

I try to avoid any situation that requires memory to be effective, so selling back the cards you bought at the start of the turn doesn't work for me. If you can keep your cards separate the entire turn, great. Especially difficult to do right if allowing take backs, which I think is fine if you can easily rewind. If, as in a recent game I played, a single event cascades through several effects and actions, sometimes that isn't really possible, but so long as it's manageable then take it back. I haven't noticed too many of those in my games, I figure out what I need to do, do it, then figure out what I can do and choose from those options. That seems most efficient to me. That said, take backs are very useful for the new player and adherence to the strict rules aren't as important so messing something up is less of an issue.

Really, being able to play this game solo in under an hour is the sweet spot for me. Familiarity more than any other mechanism speed up play, such as the ideas that there are cards that are much less useful and that you just play a sequence of actions rather than one or two at a time fall under that category.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Benjamin Fryxelius
Sweden
flag msg tools
Shouldn't it be 13 stacks with four cards each; otherwise you're playing one generation too many? The first generation you draw 10 cards.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Doug Cooley
United States
Portland
Oregon
flag msg tools
Me rocking out with my band, which you can hear at www.raindriver.com
mbmbmbmbmb
Benjy1212 wrote:
Shouldn't it be 13 stacks with four cards each; otherwise you're playing one generation too many? The first generation you draw 10 cards.


This is correct, I had missed the Setup rule where you pay for any of ten cards you wish to keep, and was instead using the same pseudodraft. Using the correct rule is easier than what I was doing, which let you look at ten cards but with greater restriction because of the pseudo-draft. That said, I wasn't playing an extra generation, just needing myself in the first.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.