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Smoke & Mirrors» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Solo variant strategic considerations rss

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Achim Zien
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I have played quite a couple of games of the solo variant and wanted to share some thoughts on it.

Basically, in the solo variant you are presented with the three shuffled, face-down card stacks and you have to (almost) deplete them down to a single card. For your turn, roll two dice and decide on which cards to reveal (up to one from each stack). If their sum is between (including) the lower and the higher of the dice, you did the trick. If their sum is outside the rolled range, you take a hit. Take three hits and you lose. Reveal the sum of both dice exactly and you regenerate a hit. Sixes are mirrors. Mirrors work as usual. If you manage to reveal all but one card of each stack without taking three (effective) hits, you win. Chapeau!

So, there are a few strategies here, that struck me:

* If you bust, it's more efficient to bust with three cards than with a single card. You only take one hit, no matter how bad your trick. Especially in the beginning of the game, this may be interesting. Just pull out three cards until you take a hit. Then, be more careful and try to get a "healing" trick.

* A healing trick is kind of wasted as long as you have not taken any hits. It's not bad, but it might not be worth it.

* Depleting a single deck way before the others is bad. This severely limits your choices. Having ones available is usually a good thing. Depleting fives early on is not that bad.

* Those swirlies (1…5) are tricky. You will need them quite often but they usually do not yield what you require.

* It is usually not worth it to take mirrors into account. They will mostly hurt you, especially the mirror of stars (which results in either 0 or unreasonably high numbers).

* For swirlies (1…5), your knowledge of the deck increases with progressing game. Use that knowledge! In contrast, for stars (1) and skulls (5), your knowledge will decrease until you hit a mirror (at which point the outcome becomes a certainty). When revealing the first card, you are almost certain it will be a number, 87% chance. If you reveal more and more numbers, the chances of revealing a number will go down to (ultimately) 50%, which is the same as no knowledge.

* For the last few turns you should plan a "hit reserve". Due to the lack of flexibility, you are more likely to take hits. Also, you can get desperate and just push through without taking hits into consideration. Though, that might make for a terrible magic show.

I really like the solo. Especially because it is very casual and can be played in a minute for a single round.

Any more strategy thoughts from you?
 
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Jason Tagmire
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This is great. I need to loop Chip in if he hasn't seen this yet. We had a LOT of notes on this, all through the terribly archived Twitter DM system.

But I too love this solo variant. It's a very strong design.
 
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Achim Zien
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There's a theory: if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There's another theory: this has already happened.
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Oh, I'd be very interested to see that, if you care to share.
 
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Chip Beauvais
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These are some great observations! Especially about using all three cards. Even if you bust, you're closer to your goal.

There are a lot of design notes but, as Jason said, they are lost in the archives of twitter DM messages. From (my admittedly poor) memory, I seem to recall that, instead of a range, you could try to match either die, or the total on the dice. And also, briefly, the 6 on each die was treated as a mirror of the other die's value. But, rolling two 6s meant you had to reveal two of the three mirrors!

We also did a lot of testing with the number of hits the player could take. We didn't want it to be impossible, but also it couldn't be too easy. Three turned out to be the right number.
 
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