My cheap copy of Star Wars: Outer Rim from (Mass)Drop finally arrived, but I had to finish my playthrough series of Blackout: Hong Kong first (Part I, Part II -- two more videos left for editing!) and do an unboxing of this and other backlogged games (three more videos left for editing!), but after filming those, I kept this one on the table to give it a go.
Setup and started a few turns. Of course I had to go with Han the man to start (he shot first ya know!)... but then read the AI setup and had to pick an opponent. Went with Lando as the two old friends have a "friendly" race.
The game is really a bit of a table hog for solo. Was hoping to keep it tight for a single ship, but nope. Have to setup a second player and ship. Of course, if I kept my table clean of other games, I'd have more room too! You also have seven decks for "encountering" planets and navpoints and six decks for acquiring ships, missions, bounties, and gear, etc... So 13 little decks + the AI deck.
AI deck (Can we agree "Automa" is the new "Coke" -- and not "new coke", blech! -- and all these decks will eventually just be called that?) is pretty easy to manage. Never been a fan of the "discard face down to the bottom of the deck" mechanic. All the card decks do that (except the databank which go in numerical order). Would prefer "discard face up" so that becomes your cue to reshuffle, otherwise everything just runs in the same cycle. But for now I'm playing "as written".
So first off (can I say that in the fifth paragraph?), this is most accurately a blend of Firefly: The Game and Fallout more than anything. People keep trying to cast aspersions on the game and compare it with Xia: Legends of a Drift System, but the only commonality there is
Similarities Between XIA and Outer Rim 1. Xia is also set in space. 2. Xia also uses "fame" as the winning condition. 3. "Xia: Legends of a Drift System" contains the letters: S, T, A, R, O, E, I, M
That's about it.
Yes, you can explore in both games, but exploration in Outer Rim makes sense. In Xia it's just busy work. Outer Rim has the planets and connections all laid out as it should be. You're exploring/investigating what's currently happening in the area. With Xia you're playing Columbus, ignoring all the knowledge available to you (as in the in-game character, not you the player) and "discovering" what each tile is during the game... and getting famous for it. No long range sensors or star mapping in Xia. It really is gamey and makes no sense.
Outer Rim also has easy to use, enjoyable solo system, something Xia is sorely lacking (yes, even with the Xia: Embers of a Forsaken Star expansion which I helped playtest -- XIA : Variants of a Solo System). As I've said before, there is a GREAT SOLO GAME somewhere in Xia... it's just not been revealed yet. I hope to get a copy again soon and create an AI deck that works.
Final comparison, fame is a little harder to earn in Outer Rim, even for the AI. In Xia, the AI just rolls a die and gains points.
Back to Outer Rim overall though. It moves pretty fast and so far has been fun to play. Someone complained about the ship cards not being "boards", but after getting my copy I just don't see an issue. They are a bit thin, but they are made to be swapped out and flipped through the game, so they don't stay in play too long. Being a Fantasy Flight Games release, I'm sure there will be expansions coming very soon too.
SUMMARY In all, I think both of the solo Automa work great and provide a very tough competitor at even the "normal" level. I cannot imagine playing them on the hard challenge (but will someday!).
I do believe that these options DO make Great Western Trail a must buy, even if only for solo play. The Automa run smooth and with little management and allow you to concentrate on playing the game. And the game is that good. One of the best worker placement games there is. Alexander Pfister has created a masterpiece.
But unfortunately, it was only designed for 2-4 players.
I tried my first game simply running two boards to learn the mechanics, etc... and even in that mode it was fun. And you're so inclined you could do that and consider the average of the two scores to be your final score. Simple solo solve!
But the solo community across BGG is quick to fill the vacuum of missing solo modes (in games of course where the mechanics don't prevent such) and with Great Western Trail, there are two solo Automa that have been designed by members of the site.
I created a demonstration video showing "Brisco" at work to explain the mechanics of each card and the final results of the game.
The second Automa is the "son" of Brisco called "Garth" and makes the AI more focused in the strategy it takes (varying between Cowboys, Craftsmen, and Engineers). My next video will demonstrate that Automa in action as well. Subscribe on BGG or on YouTube to be alerted when that video is live.
Late last year, tdakanalis introduced a solo Automa for Takenoko (Takenoko Automa (Solo Mode)). Inspired by the great Automa designer Morten Monrad Pedersen, this variant includes 5 difficulty levels as well as a variable deck setup so no two games are the same. But the files were only available as print and play DIY. I was hoping the card designer would release the images (vs. PDF) so we could get printed professionally. So I got tired of waiting...
In light of the current sale at ArtsCow, I've taken the styled deck from the Takenoko files section and broken them apart into standard sized cards. I also created three summary cards for setup and rules to serve as player aids. This results in a 27-card deck and the current sale does not allow for variable card backs, so if you order one of these, you'll get TWO sets: one to keep and one to share.
When Xia: Legends of a Drift System first came out I was quite fascinated by the concept of a beautiful, well-made space exploration sandbox system. I played it some solo as is and had a great time with it. Sure some of the rules were VERY gamey, but it general it was a fun way to pass a few hours. But there was only so much that could be done for solo play, so like most games without staying power, it found another home.
Then I was honored to be selected by Far Off Games to take part in the beta test of the (now) just released Xia: Embers of a Forsaken Star expansion. Among the other features of the game, it was going to include rules for solo play. Not quite an AI, but additional features to challenge the soloist in their games.
It was definitely a good start and I enjoyed giving the new rules a whirl, playing the system as is several times. But ultimately the solo concepts did not do enough on their own and they -- as well as the other expansion features -- added even more gameyness to an already gamey game.
Which is frustrating for me because I know there is something great in there somewhere! (I've never played multiplayer, so that may be fine as is, though I would think some aspects like the random movement distance etc. and homing comets would still be troublesome).
Of course you can house rule anything you want, especially in solo where you don't need the approval of others to do so. (In my solo games of Monopoly, "Free Parking" always contains $10,123 minimum for example)
Unfortunately, my second copy of XIA also found a new home after the beta test was over, but fortunately, I kept these notes and am sharing them in hopes that others might put them to use (with or without more adjustments as needed).
Play, play the game tonight Can you tell me if it's wrong or right Is it worth the time, is it worth the price?
I'm not a fan of making extensive "how to play videos". Especially for a yet to be available title. There is too much riding on me in terms of learning it right, playing it right, and presenting it right. Odd too since I'm normally always right (or at least think I am).
So I'm happy to say that I was in fact wrong about the Lock 'n Load Tactical: Solo system and how it actually plays out once you get past its known "limitations" and proceed into the gameplay itself. It presented an AI challenge on par with its older sibling Conflict of Heroes: Eastern Front – Solo Expansion. The flowchart usage becomes very reminiscent of the GMT COIN Series in that it becomes somewhat easy to remember what the final action is going to be given the current state of the board.
So continuing the setup (with a couple of changes) from before (Lock 'n Load: To Solo or Not to Solo...That is the Question!) where I waxed ineloquently about the fears I had with previous attempts and the number of decisions I would be forced to make, here's a couple of full turns of the game using the solo system as well as some final thoughts.
Couple of things I would definitely like to see changed either on release or future editions. Smaller flowcharts for quicker and easier reference. And instead of the large charts, add more detail about following each chart to the rulebook. Secondly the rulebook could use a little more fleshing out in terms of clarifying some of the gotchas that might develop for experienced and new players alike. Of course, these could be resolved with updated PDFs as well.
Otherwise, as I say near the end of the second video... I wanted to stop recording the session and just play. Which I did. And had an excellent time.
Definitely keep this one on your hot list and grab it as soon as you can as well as the new and improved versions of the Lock 'n Load Tactical series. You'll regret it if you don't.
This year saw Star Wars: Rebellion a deep and massive wargame hybrid that pitted the two sides of the Rebellion and the Empire against each other in iconic events and locations spanning all three movies of the original trilogy.
But with so much hidden information, the odds of creating a succesful solitaire variant were, to quote C-3PO "3,720 to 1".
Apparently, you should never tell the odds to BGG user and solitaire variant veteran
who has tackled that challenge head on and created for the solo community "The Empire Attacks". This variant allows us soloists to play the Rebellion in Rebellion against an AI-run Empire.
This was just announced in the last few hours and I've clearly not had a chance to play it myself, but reading over it, I'm very excited about the possibility. (tingle). There are few changes to the way the game plays, but I'll leave it to you read and discuss this idea and Dale's methodology over on the official variant thread here: Solitaire Variant: The Empire Attacks (Revised: Version 1.2).
When I get a chance to setup and play, I'll certainly share here!
And now we're finally to the my current Top 5 games for solitaire play. This of course means Single Player Only (SPO) games, games designed for one or more players/roles, games designed for two or more that have official or community-designed solo variants, and of course, two-player wargames that with limited or no hidden information are easily played by a single player playing both sides (not for all, but pretty typical for wargamers).
Before the final list, I thought I would add both some of the honorable mentions as well as games that I received and/or played after I compiled my list. This also includes games I don't yet have, but hope to have a chance to experience in the coming year.
So in no particular order...
V-Commandos - Excellent stealth based WW2 themed action management game. Various missions, terrain layouts, and character combinations give this a lot of replayability. Hopefully will be able to get the expansion packs soon. Have recently played and most likely would have made my top 20 this year.
Lunarchitects - Worker placement game for 1-5 that solos right out of the box against two dice-driven AI that remove tiles. Your goal is to construct the best moonbase you can to conform to three known scoring criteria. Have recently played and most likely would have made my top 20 this year.
Enemy Action: Ardennes - This was an honorable mention last year and unfortunately never made it to the table for solo play. I played the two player against myself as recommended to learn the system, but that was so long ago that I've probably forgotten most of it (what did I have for lunch yesterday anyway???). 2016: #95
High Frontier (Third Edition) - Could 2017 be the year this becomes a reality? The KS management has left a lot to be desired, but designer Phil Eklund has drawn a line in the sand and if the developer fails will take the project over to insure it eventually gets fulfilled. Still worried though that this game is far above my capacity, but we'll see.
The Goonies: Adventure Card Game - Simply a wonderful game that adapts very well to single player. Hopefully it will become more widely available soon. Have recently played and most likely would have made my top 20 this year.
4. Star Trek: Frontiers (Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2016: #100 Review: Nothing Compares 2U - A Ones Upon a Game Review For years we heard so many good things about the Mage Knight Board Game and those of us with objections to the magic/fantasy theme were left out of enjoying this genius of design. Fortunately that crisis of conscience is resolved with the release of WizKids adaptation of the system to the Star Trek IP. And all we heard about the system is correct: Vlaada Chvátil has created a masterpiece design that combines many gameplay mechanics to create a unique experience. Kudos to Andrew Parks for taking this and adapting it where no knight has gone before.
3. Scythe (Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2016: #6 Was not sure that Jamey Stegmaier and Stonemaier Games would be able to top the success of Viticulture, but with the post WWI alternate history Scythe he certainly has. Including the excellent Automa system which can be used for one or more competing AI, the solo player has many options for enjoying this amazing and captivating world created by artist Jakub Rozalski.
2. Terraforming Mars (Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2016: #23 Science-themed games (especially ones related to Mars) appear to be on the rise these days and Terraforming Mars from Jacob Fryxelius and Stronghold Games is one of the best. With a built-in and excellent solo ruleset, the sheer number of cards and the variety of starting corporations insures a different challenge each session.
1. Combat Commander: Europe (Prediction: Will Make the Top 100) Review: If You Love It So Much, Why Don't You Marry It Then? - A Ones Upon a Game Review To quote Tina Turner: "You're simply the best, better than all the rest..." In terms of pure enjoyment while playing, this Chad Jensen designed WW2 card-driven game is just that: the best. While other tactical games add more chrome in various ways, CC:E keeps the focus on the small squads and infantry battles that comprised most of the skirmishes in WW2. The card driven game play perfectly simulates the confusion of command, limitation of supplies, and simply the chaos of the battlefield. So yes, in my opinion it is not only the best overall tactical combat system out there (others come very close), but the most fun and narrative creating game there is by session. While there is of course no solo AI for CC:E and does involve some hidden information in terms of what cards are held, playing the game solo is extremely easy to do for the dedicated soloist and/or wargamer.
Thanks for reading this series and to those who took part in the People's Choice voting this year. We're all different and have different tastes and getting an (ahem) aggregated look at what everyone likes is certainly helpful to our decision making process.