Thematic Solitaires for the Spare Time Challenged

A blog about solitaire games and how to design them. I'm your host, Morten, co-designer of solo modes for games such as Scythe, Gaia Project and Viticulture.

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The 2019 People’s Choice Top 200 Solo Games No Prize Contest

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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Once more into the breach, dear friends - once more the time of wounded wallets wailing in pain are upon us: The 2019 People’s Choice Top 200 Solo Games is here.

As in previous years, I’ll host a contest, where the winner gets to go home with the world famous No Prize™ award. It can be picked up at my house somewhere in Europe on the 42nd of Febtember in the Year of the Penguin.
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An Urbion contest: The Unity & The Alignment - 2 microexpansions for Urbion using no new components

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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Instead of doing what I should be doing I somehow ended up creating 2 micro-expansions for Urbion. They’re both played using only the cards in the game box and the rules are short, so the barrier to entry is low.

I’m using them to run a small contest where the winner gets a 0.01 (the world famous “almost-no prize”) and the loser gets 100 (to put a spotlight on their awful performance ) - read on if you want to win one of these fabulous prices.
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Fri Aug 9, 2019 8:50 am
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Morten’s guide to the States of Siege series – part 5: Dice, event resolution, and combat

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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After a long vacation I’m back with the next installment of my guide to the States of Siege series of games. This time the topic is dice, event resolution, and combat.
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Thu Aug 8, 2019 2:07 pm
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How to make AI difficulty levels feel satisfying

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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I try to make my Automas (artificial opponents) so that playing against them feel like playing against a human player, but as mentioned in a recent blogpost there are exceptions to this. One such exception is related to simulating the skill level of human opponents.
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Fri Jul 12, 2019 1:23 pm
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Morten’s guide to the States of Siege series – part 4: Tension vs. variation

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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Some of my best experiences of solitaire gaming come from periods within a session where I’m constantly teetering on the brink of oblivion, where I feel like I could lose the game every single turn but manage to hang on until I finally succeed or get crushed. On the other hand, I also like games with a lot of variation.

Often high-tension and high-variability gameplay are at odds with each other. The tension zone is generally narrow and it’s hard to keep the game there as a designer if you don’t keep a tight control of the gameplay and that tight control is hard to maintain if there are many highly variable factors in the game.
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Thu Jul 11, 2019 11:20 am
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Don’t let your artificial opponent be a random number generator

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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One of the goals of my “Automa Approach” for making artificial opponents (AIs) is that playing against an Automa should feel as much like playing against a human as possible while keeping the rule complexity and workload for the player as low as possible.

My main way of achieving this is to mimic the core player interactions in a game. There are exceptions to this, though, and somewhat counterintuitively the exception I’ll discuss today relates to games with low player interaction.
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Sun Jul 7, 2019 2:31 pm
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Morten’s guide to the States of Siege series – part 3: Designer control, storytelling, and pivotal events

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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In part 2 of this series I introduced the major event deck structures used by the games in the States of Siege series and compared them (you don’t need to read it to continue here). One of the core elements of that comparison was the trade-off between designer control and game variation.

Apart from the deck structure, there’s another important way in which event cards are involved in such trade-offs.
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Thu Jul 4, 2019 2:55 pm
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Morten’s guide to the States of Siege series – Interlude: Sad news about VPG

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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This is a brief interlude in the my blog series about the States of Siege games.

I saw some sad news about the publiser of the games, Victory Point Games, posted by its founder, Alan Emrich:
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Mon Jul 1, 2019 6:57 am
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Morten’s guide to the States of Siege series – part 2: Event deck structures

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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With all the introductory stuff for this blog series handled in post 1, we are ready to dive into the State of Siege (SoS) mechanisms. We’ll do this both to understand the core mechanical concepts and to see how they evolved and explored the nooks and crannies of the design space.
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Fri Jun 28, 2019 4:00 am
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Morten’s guide to the States of Siege series – part 1: The boring introduction

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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To me the most interesting series of solo board games in existence is the States of Siege series published by Victory Point Games. This is not caused by their quality as games (they’re good), instead it’s because they’re a series of 16 games that all share the same engine with each adding its own new mechanisms and tweaks to existing mechanisms.

This means that the series represents a unique chance to study the effects of a specific mechanism, since you can compare it to very similar games that don’t have that specific mechanism. For this reason, I’ve used the States of Siege games numerous times in my posts on game design - it also doesn’t hurt that I enjoy playing them .
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Wed Jun 26, 2019 10:41 am
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