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Thematic Solitaires for the Spare Time Challenged

Do you enjoy thematic board games, but due to family, work or other obligations have trouble finding the time for a gaming group? If so then this blog is for you. Here you’ll find reviews and information about thematic solitaire board games for those with too little spare time, accompanied by interviews and design articles. The focus is games that can be setup in a few minutes and played in less than an hour.
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2013 best thematic solitaire for the spare time challenged – and the winner is…

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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The readers have spoken – 189 of them. The 2013 best thematic solitaire for the spare time challenged has been chosen.

First came two rounds of nominations, where you, the readers, could nominate candidates and where I nominated a few candidates based on the game entries in the BGG database.

After this 16 candidates were nominated and I asked all of you to vote with the following criteria in mind:
* A game that has weak theme should be ranked lower than one that’s very thematic (all other things being equal).
* The games should only be evaluated on their merit as solitaires, so whether a game can be played as multiplayer should in not influence the votes.
* If a game takes more than an hour to play that should weigh against it.

The race is on

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game pulled ahead from the beginning and after 16 hours and 136 votes the top five looked like this:

1 Pathfinder Adventure Card Game - 36 thumbsup
2 Navajo Wars - 24 thumbsup
3 Dawn of the Zeds (Second edition) - 19 thumbsup
4 Phantom Leader Deluxe - 12 thumbsup
5 Cruel Necessity – 9 thumbsup
5 Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy – 9 thumbsup
5 SOS Titanic – 9 thumbsup

So Pathfinder had a commanding lead, but not so much so that a change was inconceivable and the rest of the rankings were still a close race. After I wrote down the list above, however, Pathfinder accelerated and got 12 of the 25 votes that were given in the following 24 hours after which the top five was:

1 Pathfinder Adventure Card Game - 48 thumbsup
2 Navajo Wars - 29 thumbsup
3 Dawn of the Zeds (Second edition) - 20 thumbsup
4 Phantom Leader Deluxe - 12 thumbsup
4 SOS Titanic – 12 thumbsup

So now the top 3 started to look solidified and SOS titanic had pulled up to a shared fourth place pushing Cruel Necessity (10 thumbsup) and Legacy (9 thumbsup) out of the list. Infection had moved up (9 thumbsup) and was looking like it had a chance of catching up to Phantom Leader that had been standing still.

I myself haven’t tried the Pathfinder card game, but I’ve played the Rise of the Runelords RPG campaign on which it’s thematically based almost all the way through. Unfortunately my RPG group fell apart just as we were entering the last leg of the campaign because the wives of the players started spewing out children left and right , so I’d love to reach the end of the storyline through a faster playing game.

My own personal favorite solitaire game Dawn of the Zeds was doing well, but I had decided against voting for it since I’ve never been close to completing that game within an hour.

And the winner is…

Fast forward to today, where the voting is over and the final top 10 is:

d10-1 Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set – 62 thumbsup
d10-2 Navajo Wars – 31 thumbsup
d10-3 Dawn of the Zeds (Second edition) – 22 thumbsup
d10-4 Phantom Leader Deluxe – 13 thumbsup
d10-4 SOS Titanic – 13 thumbsup
d10-6 Cruel Necessity – 12 thumbsup
d10-7 Infection: Humanity's Last Gasp – 11 thumbsup
d10-7 Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy – 11 thumbsup
d10-9 Maquis – 8 thumbsup
d10-1 d10-0 Hidden Intruder – 2 thumbsup
d10-1 d10-0 The Herald – 2 thumbsup

That means that I can now declare Pathfinder as winner. Congratulations to Paizo Publishing and designers Chad Brown, Tanis O’Connor, Paul Peterson, Mike Selinker, and Gaby Weidling.

Navajo Wars, a game I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about, took second place immediately and held onto it without ever being threatened. Third was Dawn of the Zeds, and it’s such a great game that I’m happy it placed well even though the play length made me not vote for it.

While the top 3 solidified quickly there’s was doubt about the other placements till the end and Phantom Leader Deluxe and SOS Titanic battled for the 4th place, which they ended up sharing.

Apart from that it’s been interesting to me to note that several of the 16 nominated games were print and play games. The one of these that did best by far was Maquis, a game set during the German occupation of France, which features a nice twist on the worker placement genre and shows that worker placement can… well work for solitaires. The game managed to place close to the commercial games, which I think is impressive, but the result also shows that as expected PnPs are still niche.

Next year

With 189 votes more people participated than I had thought which I’m pretty happy about . If I’m stilling running this blog at the end of 2014 I plan to do similar round of nominations and voting, so I’d like to hear any suggestions you might have for improving the process. One thing I consider changing is disallowing designers to nominate themselves, another is to expand the number of categories, so there for example could be a category for <15 minute games. Please let me know what you think in the comments.
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