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.
A little over a year ago I released my "Hostage Cards" unofficial expansion for Hostage Negotiator by Van Ryder Games. It was met with more enthusiasm than I anticipated (thank you!). This deck of 27 characters gave a little more depth to the yellow meeples of that game and many felt increased the tension (some said too much!).
If you've not heard me harp on these before, you can read all about them and download the print and play PDF versions yourself if you like.
With the current Kickstarter campaign for the Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Tragic Events expansion underway (LINK: http://kck.st/2fuhTs3), it occurred to me that these cards could as well be used for other games. With the limited direct ties to Hostage Negotiator, I decided to sever that connection and make the cards a little more versatile and work with not only HN, but also for Flash Point: Fire Rescue and perhaps other games that use a hidden "victim" component.
So from this point forward "Hostage Cards" are now "Persons in Peril"
Obviously fire rescue isn't about hostages, nor are they "victims" if they are actually rescued, so "Persons in Peril" seemed like an appropriate fit. This deck includes the original 27 character cards as well as five "False Alarm" objects and two straight-from-casting-central cute animals (a dog and a cat). There are also 20 "blank" character cards for you to make your own persons in peril should you so desire. The entire 54 card deck features an all new back image as well.
The 54-card version is now available on The Gamecrafter (LINK: http://bit.ly/2uGANxU). As promised the original "Hostage Cards" will remain free PnP for those who only want it for Hostage Negotiator.
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).
UPDATE: After posting this story and the card images, it was requested by the publisher that the print and play images not be made available for this project, so I have removed all the links relevant.
Artscow is having another one of their popular 3 for $18 sales (artscow.com, Coupon Code: NINE25) and as always people are scrambling to find card decks and small deck games to take advantage of the deals (Artscow sale - good solitaire options?).
So combine this with the Artscow sale and voila! Nicely printed decks, as many as you need. They won't be the exact same size as the other cards, a more standard 2.5x3.5, but they don't really have to mix with the other cards either.
So I took the PnP PDFs and extracted the cards, added a border to make the the right size (with some bleed, a printing term) and uploaded them to artscow as a saved project which you can find here:
Link removed at the request of the publisher.
Now to allow the player to keep the different decks separated, I modified the blue back on the original set to be the other six faction colors as well (5 in the base game and 2 more coming in the Scythe: Invaders from Afar expansion). So there are 19 card images -- you'll need all 19 for a deck and then your choice of 13 cards backs.
So while I did each color, I thought others might not want to print all seven decks when they only need a couple of more at most. So instead of a color that doesn't match the opponent's in-game color, they'd want just a "clone" of the Automa deck. So in addition to the 7 faction colored backs, there are 6 more with the same blue back, but with the letters B-G in the center. Your choice.
If you want to change or make more than the artscow project has in it, the card images are here: Link removed at the request of the publisher.
The project I'm sharing has a red set and a yellow set. But you can swap out the backs by uploading a new file. You can get two decks of Automa cards in a single 54 card deck and you have 16 cards left over. By combining two of these sets you can get a full five sets in two decks, with a few cards left over. Or you can find small deck games to round out each set.
By the way, if you're starting afresh, the cards you want are Multi-purpose cards (rectangle). These don't come with the poker values/suits on them.
Scoring is handled manually just writing on the scorecard area with the pen tool. To reset for a new frame, you stack the counters on their respective start locations (with the correct number of balls on each stack) and then use the randomization function to shuffle things. If you're a regular user of TTS not yet full of BS (that is Bowling Solitaire), then you really should pick this up and give some props (and maybe geek gold) to radchad.
Finally, since I really need to learn mobile development for my career, I intend to make this a project for that very purpose. If I can get permissions from the Sackson estate, I'll release for iOS and Android at some point. Stay tuned.
Being new to the resurgence of board gaming, I'd not heard of the late Sid Sackson until I got hooked playing Can't Stop online. But even then, I didn't know the fullness of his design genius. I probably still don't and never will. About a year ago, I learned of his book A Gamut of Games and his 1969 design Bowling Solitaire. I played it once and enjoyed it. But the cards shuffling between frames always bugged me as it slowed down the game -- I felt there was more time shuffling than playing.
So I forgot about it until recently when interest resurfaced in the 1 Player guild and a Solitaire Bowling League - rollin' rollin' rollin'! (all slots full) was formed. I didn't join the league, but decided to try this one out again. I was even more impressed by the beauty and elegance of such a simple game. One that captures the flavor of bowling, blends necessary randomness with a lot of strategy. And doesn't kill my thumb and shoulder to play.
But for me, there was still the shuffling. Yes, it's great that you can just take 20 cards from a single regular deck and play. But cards are normally about 3.5" tall, so this means you need a decent sized area to play. Not large by any stretch, but not conducive to just playing anywhere. There had to be a better way.
And in my opinion, I found it. Instead of cards, use counters. Instead of shuffling, use a draw cup. And from that seed of an idea, the following sprang to life.
With 2-3 sheets of cardstock and perhaps a little Mod Podge and foamcore, this gives you all the fun and strategy of the Sackson math classic in a compact, thematic package. One 8x5" gameboard (optional) and 27 (or 20*) double sides ball/pin counters is all you need to play this one anywhere. At at restaurant, on a plane, during a lunch break, etc.
Instructions are included of how to adapt this from the card game, but in a nutshell it's as simple as putting the counters in a draw cup, pulling out 10 to set the pins, and then draw your first three balls and off you go.
I made a quick video of a single frame to demonstrate.
* I found the "ball return" counters to be unnecessary in practice, preferring to simply place the used balls beneath its spot on the board to keep track of how many had been added to each of the 5, 3, and 2 stacks respectively.
Hostage Negotiator from Van Ryder Games has been a very entertaining and popular solitaire game (as seen in the last several months of Top 10 tracking). However, to me, one thing seems missing. Hostages. We have meeples for the hostages, but the game never told you just who those hostages were. We know who the Abductors are. We know who the Negotiators are. Why not a little back story on the men and women behind the meeples.
This is a project I've been planning for several months and finally was inspired to get it done over the last several nights. So to that end, I present the "Hostage Cards" print and play expansion for Hostage Negotiator.
This Hostage Cards (unofficial) expansion is designed to add a little bit more realism to the game, by putting names, faces, and backstory to those you rescue -- or lose -- in your games of Hostage Negotiator. 27 different hostages are included to give some variety to your game (and since 27 is divisible by 9 cards per page, why not?).
I was not content to just use text, so I paid for 28 stock photos from online site Fotolia to bring these characters to life. I processed them to look more like painting/comic/artwork instead of raw photos (Hey Star Trek game makers, it can be easily done!). I tried to mix up the cards between men and woman, various races and ages, etc. Not for any PC reasons, but for a realistic potential mix.
I also attempted to breathe life into the characters in the small space that I allowed myself. You’ll find a little detail about them, a quote perhaps, and then an explanation of why they were in the crisis location. As each scenario can differ it was hard to do this without being specific. I hope you’ll forgive any inconsistencies that may occur between my explanation and the scenario location. Just go with it.
Using the Hostages Using the Hostage Cards in a game of Hostage Negotiator is simple. Instead of placing the yellow hostage meeples on the player board at the start of the game, shuffle your deck and deal out (face down) a stack of yellow hostage cards equal to the number of meeples you would have placed. Set aside the rest of the cards.
When a hostage is rescued ( or killed ) reveal the top card of the hostage deck to learn which was affected and put it in the appropriate stack. If a terror card adds more hostages to the pool, then add that many more cards to the stack from the remainder of the starting deck you set aside.
You may find it easier to still use the meeples on the board itself and then draw a card when you move a meeple to either rescued or killed.
The instructions for the expansion include more information on how to use them and some variant options. I hope you will enjoy this addition to the Hostage Negotiator system.