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.
And the beat goes on... Today begins my top 10 games that can be played solo -- either by design or by variant or by split personality.
10. Gears of War: The Board Game (Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2016: #17 This is one I came to solely at the recommendation of other gamers. I'd never played the video games (and still have not, though I'm tempted to get the PC versions). Corey Konieczka has become a whiz at converting other IP to playable, replayable, and enjoyable board games and Gears is a masterpiece. Tense, fun, variable... and hard too! It's a shame that not only has Fantasy Flight Games let this one go out of print (get it if you can!!!), but also that this amazing system has not simply been adapted to other properties. In fact, it shocks me that our talented gaming community has not done something similar. Ooh... ideas!!!
9. Roll for the Galaxy (Prediction: Will Make the Top 100) Now it may seem odd that I have Roll for the Galaxy a few spots ahead of the mature sibling Race for the Galaxy and perhaps the only reason I do is that it's a little faster and a little clearer to play. Unfortunately there is not a solo option included. Fortunately, there is an excellent solo variant from the community (Roll for the Galaxy Bot (Unofficial)).
8. Cruel Necessity (Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2016: #56 The pre-eminent game in the Victory Point Games States of Siege Series, CN is set during the English Civil Wars of 1640-1653. It takes the player on an historic journey in three acts and presents not only tough choices, but limited options to balance the scales in their struggle.
16. Burgle Bros. (Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2016 #64 Designer Tim Fowers followed the success of the stylish and entertaining word game Paperback with a completely different game in theme and mechanics, while retaining the visual design aesthetic. This caper/heist stealth title offers a great deal of variety, strategy, and replayability.
15. This item has been removed from my selections following submission of ballot.(Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)
14. Space Cadets: Away Missions (Prediction: Will Make the Top 100) When previous games in the "Space Cadets" line would appear on BGG or OLGS sales, I'd check for solo variants to no avail. Then this new mission based "crawl" came onto the scene with rave reviews and I'm thrilled they were all correct. With a 50s camp theme (expect Joel, Crow, and Tom Servo to offer commentary), but solid and strategic gameplay this release from Stronghold Games is a treat. Designed by: Dan Raspler and Al Rose.
12. MERCS: Recon (Prediction: Will NOT Make the Top 100) If MegaCon Games could improve their business-side of things to be half as good as their game designs, they'd be a major force to contend with. 2016 finally saw the release (to backers and some limited distribution) of the MERCS: Recon series including to two base games MERCS: Recon – Counter Threat and MERCS: Recon – Assassination Protocol along with ten expansion packs (forthcoming to retail). There is already a lot of game in this system for 1-5 players. In addition you can use the miniatures to play the MERCS 2.0 tabletop game. Unfortunately there has not been enough exposure to the gaming community, let along soloists for this to make the Top 100. This year. In this futuristic Brian Shotton design, players take on the role of a MegaCorp trying to complete a mission in an competing corporation's HQ. Truly soloable -- though not single-player-only (SPO) -- the game requires five Mercs to be controlled, so if you're one of the few who doesn't like to handle dual (pental?) duty, this won't be for you. But otherwise, grab this one while you can if you like tactical combat games against a great AI system with nearly infinite replayability.
Has it been a year already? The 2016 People's Choice Top 100 Solo Games (it's the third annual -- this is becoming a habit!) nominations are over, the results have been tabulated and the winners are slowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwly being revealed over the next several days.
Like last year (2015 People's Choice - Compiling my Top 20 Solo Games - Part Uno) over the next four days I'll be likewise revealing my top 20 (or so). These are the ones I submitted for my one lone vote (out of several hundred or so I would presume). I'll also note my prediction as to whether I think the game will actually appear in the top 100 this year. This is not a list of just games that came out this year, but games of all time that are designed for solitaire play or have either an official or unofficial variant for them -- or simply just play well with a single player playing both sides. If you play it solo, it can be included.
My list will actually start at number 21, but there will still be only 20 games listed. My entry for 15th place I have since scratched for personal reasons. While the game itself is good, even great, I've since soured on it due to the public behavior of the designer. This is not something I do lightly, but in this case I feel is warranted -- and that's all I will say on the matter.
So without further ado... until the list is complete and then we can say "adieu" to this year's effort... my Top 20 games:
21. Dead Reckoning (Prediction: Will NOT Make the Top 100) Hermann Luttmann has been a busy designer this year (as well as developer on other games). This "Zombies invade a small town" game from Tiny Battle Publishing could have simply been another in a overcrowded and tired genre, but the gameplay mechanics including the impulse deck and diceless card based combat resolution make it a very fun experience. Unfortunately limited exposure will prevent it from reaching the Top 100.
20. In Magnificent Style (Prediction: Will Make the Top 100) This press your luck game themed on Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg remains high in my collection. Simple to play, hard to win and beautifully produced by Victory Point Games it is the promised start of a series that has a couple of more titles in development. Get it while you can as VPG may be abandoning the lovely laser count counters in the future.
17. Freedom: The Underground Railroad (Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2016: #41 Academy Games, Inc. is known for games with much historic detail and I'm not sure anyone else could have produced a game that so properly handles a difficult subject. But this Brian Mayer design treats the issue of slavery in America with sensitivity and restraint, while staying faithful to true historic narrative. There is a real sense of pain when one of your rescuees is recaptured and joy when they make it through the Underground Railroad to Canada. A masterpiece!
3. Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game(Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2015 #10 Building on the excellent deck-building system of Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game and making it even better (theme, interaction, hidden enemies), this game just oozes the Alien-verse. Perfectly playable as a solo game (two handed is harder than just one), Alien Legendary is a fun and frantic romp through the two great Alien movies as well as two sequels that bear the trademark. Love for this game will insure it's in the top 100 this year. Now we just need a version based on Bladerunner.
1. Combat Commander: Europe(Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2015 #77 Surprised? You don't know me then. Chad Jensen's card driven WW2 wargame is simply amazing to play. Yes, there are other games that simulate war better or to a finer detail. And there are other games that are more abstract and easier to pick up games covering the same topic. But in Combat Commander: Europe (Review: If You Love It So Much, Why Don't You Marry It Then? - A Ones Upon a Game Review), you have the PERFECT blend of fun game and strategic simulation. It's not too heavy and it's not too light. It's easy enough to pick up and the rulebook is second to none for layout and clarity. As for playing the game solo, there are some variants, but they aren't needed at all. The best advice is to just play both sides and when you draw cards don't look at them until your turn unless you're checking for another purpose (opportunity fire or assaults). I could say there is no doubt this will make the top 100, but it's already been revealed to have done so... but I did mark my predictions prior to the official postings. What's great is that it climbed so many spots as so many more people submitted their top 20 this year.
So there you have it. My top 20 solo games in my collection. I hope you've enjoyed reading this and sharing your thoughts. Will do this again next year as many of the new games I've acquired (and are coming) get played (more) and bump down some of the others.
ממשיך את הספירה לאחור של 20 משחקי סוליטר העליונים שלי ...
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Continuing the countdown of my top 20 solitaire games...
10. Across 5 Aprils(Prediction: Will NOT Make the Top 100)2015 NOT ON LIST They say don't judge a book by its cover, but I'm guilty of judging games from the 1980s by their components. For some reason playing with old, bare bones counters just doesn't thrill me. So I almost passed up this classic game of the American Civil War. The title refers to the April 1861-April 1865 period of the ACW, the five battles included did not all actually take place in April. This game features my favorite "makes a game soloable" mechanic: the chit pull. This keeps things fresh and interesting throughout the game. Add in that a side cannot attack until their combat chit is pulled. Great title and definitely worth picking up. Won't make the top 100 because I don't think enough know, remember, or think of it.
9. Thunder Alley(Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2015 NOT ON LIST Add my voice to the "I'm not a NASCAR fan" chorus who love this game. Watching real cars driving in circles would bore me to tears (about as much as playing YahtzeeSubs), but this title from GMT Games abstracts the thrill and chrome (yeah, I said it) of racing to an awesome card driven (yeah, I said it) boardgame. There is an amazing amount of strategy to the cards you play, the car you activate, and the maneuvers you can perform. If you don't have it already, burn rubber and get it (yeah, I said it). Will make the top 100 because it's so darn good.
8. Snowdonia(Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2015 #16 Another of the early recommendations from the SGOYT crowd that I never regretted picking up. While there are train games galore, this worker placement title about building a track up a mountain offers the right blend of tough choices and variability of play to make it an excellent solo game. Highly replayable. The mechanic of restocking the supply yard and drawing event cubes is genius. Love it. Will easily make the top 100.
7. Cruel Necessity(Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2015 #46 Victory Point Games has released many titles in their States of Siege line, but none so brilliant or captivating as this one. I know some people prefer the (ick) zombie one, but the SoS series works so much better with the historical narrative. Set against the backdrop of the English Civil Wars, the game offers multiple tracks to manage and the conundrum of "what can I do with my limited choices" and "why does this stupid die hate me so much" (ala Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game). When battles break out there is a cool mini-battle board that adds a respite from the standard gameplay and shouldn't be missed. I bet it will make the top 100, though it might be lost in the shuffle.
6. Viticulture(Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2015 #18 As the worker placement genre has expanded it's hard to make things that seem fresh. Jamey Stegmaier'sStonemaier Games however has done just that with this one (along with the Tuscany: Expand the World of Viticulture). A game about winemaking? I don't even drink! But this one is a really good time. Sets up and plays very quickly. Add in the Automa AI created by Morten Monrad Pedersen and the solo game is just amazing. Whoever thought of the glass gems to do double duty as grapes and wine bottles was genius. I smile every time I see them on the player mat. So cool. No whining (yeah, I said it) from me on this one -- except maybe for the annoying mini-cards. I don't care about upgraded coins, but man, give me normal sized cards! On the strength of this game, it's made Stonemaier titles a nearly instant buy for me... the quality is that good. If this doesn't make the top 100, the voting is rigged! And I know it's not rigged.
My boyfriend and I just love Settlers of Catan. We play it all the time, every chance we get. In homeroom, waiting for the school bus, sitting out of gym class because of our allergies. I love my boyfriend for playing Catan with me. He's awesome. Catan's awesome.
Would you please play Queen's "Play the Game" in honor of our love of Catan. And of course each other?
Yours truly. Trulie. And now... on with the countdown.
Picking up where I left off yesterday, here's the second set of five in my Top 20 Solo Games...
15. In Magnificent Style(Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2015 NOT ON LIST Hermann Luttmann's press your luck take on Pickett's Charge at Gettyburg combines strategy, random events (good and bad), and horrible die rolls to create a quick filler game full of solid options. One of Victory Point Games best as well. More to come in this series of fighting against overwhelming odds. Happy.
14. Star Wars: Imperial Assault(Prediction: Will NOT Make the Top 100)2015 NOT ON LIST Star Wars fever has been escalating over the last couple of years and this month's release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is only going to increase it. Last year Fantasy Flight Games announced Imperial Assault, improving on the engine used by some fantasy game, upgrading the theme to not only Sci-Fi, but to Star Wars! The game comes with two modes: campaign and skirmish. The Skirmish mode, like any tactical wargame is easily enough played solo right out of the box, simply by playing both sides. However, the campaign mode relies on two players: unless you use one of two different AI decks created by RedJak7. The RedJak's Automated Emperor Variant or the Redjak's Automated Imperial Variant. Don't see this making the top 100 because of the perception it's only good for two or more players.
13. Pandemic: The Cure(Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2015 #39 Takes all the fun of fighting worldwide disease outbreaks and puts it into dice form. Definitely killed its older brother Pandemic (review: I Want a New Drug - A Ones Upon a Game Review) for me. So much so that I have no interest (at this time) in Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 in spite of how much "fun" there is in buying a board game to destroy it (seems like a "trash the dress" wedding concept). I think this will still make the top 100 on its merits alone, but the only thing that may hurt it is the current infatuation for the Legacy version.
12. Friday(Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2015 #3 Quick and easy to play card game where you're Friday helping the imbecilic Robinson Crusoe survive several challenges. As he wins various fights, he improves his deck to prepare for the tougher battles to come. Game includes many levels of difficulty too. Cute artwork, tight design, compact package. What's not to love? Easily the best game of all time showcasing the Robinson Crusoe theme. Yes, this includes that other one (which will also make the top 100 and sadly the top 10).
11. Navajo Wars(Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2015 #14 A slow burning, thinking game where you lead the Navajo (Dine) tribe through different periods of aggression against them. Some excellent mechanics and variability make this a unique and interesting play. And educational. Will make the top 100 because there is still a lot of love for this one and rightly so.
The second annual 1 Player guild 2015 People's Choice nominations have ended and the big reveal is now underway of the Top 100 Solo Games for 2015.
You can follow along as the choices are made public (2015 People's Choice Top 100 Solo Games), initially in batches of 10 then trickling to an agonizing 5 per day until the top game is finally unmasked. IMO the community got it wrong last year (I'm clearly in the minority on a certain game), but since I didn't vote I cannot complain (yeah, right).
So this year I promised myself I'd do the hard job and submit my own top 20 to the competition. Doing my small part to knock that game from its perch.
Compiling such a list for me is difficult. I tend to see the games in my collection as a dichotomy of "Love It" or "List It". If I play a game and it clicks with me and there is just something unique about the mechanics or experience, then it falls into the "Love It" camp. As for "List It" (meaning it will be sold or traded ASAP), those are games that are boring to play, feel like puzzles without any fun, just bad games in general, or simply great games that aren't my cup of tea (too long, too many plays required to understand them, etc.). I don't stockpile games that I don't enjoy. While sometimes that leads to the boomerang effect (There and Back Again - Boomerang Games Explained), most of the time, like not attending my senior prom, I have no regrets.
So then when I look at all my kept "love it" games and try to sort them to bubble up a top 20, it's such a hair-splitting act of frustration, that I walk away and do something else. Like play a game. But this year, I made myself do it so I could take part. So now, for your enjoyment, criticism, or just something to do, I present my Top 20 Solo Games (part one)...
20. Gears of War: The Board Game(Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2015 #9 Never was a player of the old or new video game series, but this one was recommended very early in my return to boardgaming and for good reason. A great little miniatures boardgame that can be brutally tough. The choice of COGs in the game as well as fan made characters along with the variable setup of each mission give this one excellent replay value. Sadly, Fantasy Flight Games has cancelled the game, so grab it if you can find it. Hopefully we'll see this one picked up again or have the system converted to another property. This with Star Wars or even Lord of the Rings (swarms of Orcs!) would be amazing.
19. Freedom: The Underground Railroad(Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2015 #29 Academy Games, Inc. makes some really beautiful games and Freedom is no exception. This game take a very heavy subject matter and tactfully creates a "game" out of it. All with proper respect as well as educating the players.
18. Flash Point: Fire Rescue(Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2015 #17 When I first saw this one I couldn't take it seriously. The little "Fisher Price" looking firefighters made it seems like a kids game. Which it can be. But with the advanced rules and expansions, this game is just amazinging fun and difficult.
17. Forge War(Prediction: Will NOT Make the Top 100)2015 NOT ON LIST Finally a fantasy game I can get into. Instead of the stereotypical high fantasy with wizards and magic and "gods" nonsense, this one is about the fighters. More directly, the smithy who is equipping the fighters to do battle. It is beautifully produced with a cool mini-game for resources each round too. There were a couple of weapons cards that made me uncomfortable, so I just chunked those in the trash.. but the rest of the game, epic or short is a lot of good thematic fun.
16. Ambush!(Prediction: Will Make the Top 100)2015 #76 I managed to score a copy of this classic solitaire title during a math trade and so glad I did. While the counters are pretty hokey by today's standards, the game itself is a rock solid WW2 wargame experience. Using a neat system of cards, hidden data, and narrative paragraphs, this is truly the best combination of gameplay and story generation I've seen. Many rely on doing one or the other, but Ambush by John H. Butterfield does both at the same time.
So that's the first five of my 20. I'll reveal the next five tomorrow.