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Tasting/testing several solo PnPs.

About my gaming taste: I mostly enjoy games which appeal to me aesthetically, and are rich in theme. Exploration, adventures, and monster extermination are my favourite endeavors. I usually like deck building, card-driven gameplay, and light wargames.




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1. Board Game: Pocket Landship: Free Trial Version [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:5540]
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Availability: free, files on BGG.

Gameplay in a nutshell: roll and allocate dice so that your landship defeats the opposing forces.

Impressions: A simple, yet enjoyable game. As darkyeoman remarked, the choices in dice placement are rather obvious, but this didn't prevent me from having a good time with it. Emergency repairs are key to winning. The game can be played on the advanced side to increase the difficulty, and also comes with an expansion. I'm glad it will receive the Kickstarter treatment, I would like to see it illustrated in colour.

Recommended if: you like (very) light wargames.

Keeper? Yes, until the boxed edition arrives.

(Nr of plays: 3)
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2. Board Game: The Prince of Pies [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
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Availability: free, files on BGG.

Gameplay in a nutshell: Manage a hand of cards by rotating them, flipping them and using their abilities, to steal as many pies as possible.

Impressions: What a cute theme! Even though the artwork is not in colour, the figures are nicely drawn. You can play it in your hand, almost like Palm Island, but you need a surface to place the stolen pies on. Nothing mind-blowing, just a pleasant micro-game. Perhaps something to do 5 minutes before you go to sleep.

Recommended if: you want a change from Palm Island. This one is lighter, but cuter.

Keeper? Yes.

(Nr of plays: 10)
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3. Board Game: Sprawlopolis [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:1388]
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Availability: low cost purchase at PnP Arcade.

Gameplay in a nutshell: Arrange the city tiles in such a manner as to score the required points.

Impressions: Not my style of game, but a solid design. I will play again, but I'm not having enough fun. The scoring part at the end felt like a hassle. The city-building theme didn't come through for me, I found the game rather dry.

Recommended if: you like abstract puzzles.

Keeper? No.

(Nr of plays: 2)
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4. Board Game: Wipers Salient [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:8423]
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Availability: low cost purchase at Wargame Vault.

Gameplay in a nutshell: Build your deck to defeat the Germans.

Impressions: Excellent choice of satirical artwork for this traditional-style deck builder: randomized market, and shuffling of the deck. The game offers little chance of getting rid of bad cards, and the degree of randomness can be frustrating. It is difficult to win but easy to reset and retry (I won my 6th game, but I attribute my feat to luck of the draw). Replayability is mostly ensured by the short playtime and the addictive nature of deck building.

Recommended if: you like deck builders and light wargames.

Keeper? Yes.

(Nr of plays: 6)
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5. Board Game: The Restoration of Ilkannon [Average Rating:6.75 Unranked]
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Availability: free, files on the designer's website.

Gameplay in a nutshell: move around the grid of tiles to restore them, making sure you achieve at least one of your goals without gaining corruption.

Impressions: Very appealing visually. Charming theme. All the cards have poetic names, and the story blurbs are well-written. Unfortunately, the gameplay is too random. Little decision space, and some skill checks. Still, I felt compelled to replay this: the magical spread of vegetation, the mysterious alleys and towers, and the unavoidable spread of corruption make this an engaging experience.

Recommended if: you feel like playing a simple, yet idiosyncratic game that sets a fairytale-like mood.

Keeper? Yes.

(Nr of plays: 5)
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6. Board Game: FUSION: Asteroid Mining [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
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Availability: free, files on BGG.

Gameplay in a nutshell: Move your spaceship from tile to tile to gain credit while trying to avoid being taxed by the 'peacekeepers'.

Impressions: Very good-looking game. My first session, however, ended in frustration. I got stuck in a loop of adding a couple of credits only to be deprived of them immediately by the patrolling police. After repeating this for 4 rounds, I gave up, as it became obvious that there was no way to avoid them before the depletion of the tile deck.

My second playthrough was victorious, even though I didn't really apply any strategy (I had to scan, because there was initially a shortage of asteroids). I think the win was mostly the result of a more convenient placement of the tiles. The game is perfectly fine, but I didn't enjoy the hide-and-seek with the enemies that much. I generally prefer direct confrontation. (My apologies to the designer).

Recommended if: you like the 'pick up and deliver' mechanism.

Keeper?: probably not.

(Nr of plays: 2)
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7. Board Game: Barbarian Vince [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:10605]
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Availability: free, files on BGG.

Gameplay in a nutshell: travel around the map to have adventures and complete missions.

Impressions: Random but pleasant 'overland crawler'. I had to watch a gameplay video and consult the threads to understand what to do, but it is ultimately a very simple game to play. Since it relies on storytelling, replayability is inevitably limited. Still, winning all three missions should take some time.

Because the game mainly consists of wandering around the map and having random encounters, it soon grows a bit stale and can outstay its welcome before any mission is completed. Best consumed in small portions.

Recommended if: you enjoy light games and adventuring.

Keeper? Yes.

(Nr of plays: 4)
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8. Board Game: Desolate [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:4701]
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Availability: Free, files on the Gray Gnome Games website. (Or you can purchase the boxed edition and the expansions).

Gameplay in a nutshell: Manage your resources (health, ammo, oxygen) as well as you can until you collect 5 power cells.

Impressions: A relatively good filler that needs expansions to secure longevity. There is a press-your-luck element when choosing which card to explore, while resources are scarce and cannot be spent recklessly. Even though the game is well-illustrated, I didn't feel the story coming through. It probably needs to be enriched with the expansion material to become more lively and varied.

Recommended if: you feel like playing a quick resource management game.

Keeper? No.

(Nr of plays: 2)

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9. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:2389]
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This listing is for The Jewel of the Undine Lords by Todd Sanders. (WIP thread: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2126604/jewel-undine-lords-...)

Availability: free, files on the WIP thread.

Gameplay in a nutshell: roll and use your dice in order to face encounters and traps, as you rotate the cards in your hand to exit the dungeon.

Impressions: This little dungeon crawler adds dice to the palm-game genre. The dice offer randomness, as expected, but you can spend pips on the 'eldritch' die to re-roll. I found it pleasant, but not so immersive as to wish to play again immediately. It's also too easy, if you don't play on the Advanced side.

Update: I played four times on advanced, all losses. It makes me suspect it's unwinnable on this mode. The press-your-luck element becomes too strong: the game gets completely out of the player's control and turns into a mere dice fest.

Recommended if: you are curious to see variants in the play-in-your-hand type of games.

Keeper?: yes for now.

(Nr of plays: 5)
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10. Board Game: Tangled Timelines [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
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Availability: the files are available on the KS page.

Gameplay in a nutshell: put four heroes on display and try to match their names and skills with the ones in your hand. Collect sets to win.

Impressions: Not my style of game, even though I usually love cards. The fact that I'm lukewarm on the artwork doesn't help either. Collecting the sets of heroes isn't easy, but I suspect one gets better at it after repeated plays. I skipped using the special abilities in the hope of simplifying my first sessions, but only managed to collect one meager set.

Recommended if: you like light, quick, theme-less card games.

Keeper?: I don't think so.

(Nr of plays: 3)
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11. Board Game: Adamastor [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:6797]
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Availability: free, files on BGG.

Gameplay in a nutshell: handle the available cards in such a way as to reach your destination on the map before a riot breaks out on the ship.

Impressions: An attractive game in all respects. Interesting theme, relatively unusual gameplay, very good artwork on the cards. Still, the misfortunes that befall the crew could have been more felt: the titles on the cards go amiss, as the only thing the player is looking at is the symbols. I played on easy mode and won, but would like to try the historical map as well. (There is also the promise of an expansion coming).

Update: The difficulty in the historical map is significantly higher. You are recreating Vasco da Gama's journey from Lisbon to India. I managed to reach Calcutta after 4 tries, but it was a narrow win. I have enjoyed this game a lot, it is so far my favourite from this list. I also found that having to navigate a realistic map instead of a random, imaginary one, strengthened my desire to play even more.

Recommended if: you like card play and map navigation.

Keeper?: yes.

(Nr of plays: 7)
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12. Board Game: The Thief in the Forest of Wyr [Average Rating:7.79 Unranked]
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Availability: free, files on BGG.

Gameplay in a nutshell: manage your skills as effectively as possible until you find the six gems you seek to steal from the towers.

Impressions: A combination of decision-making and press-your luck, complimented by wonderful artwork. The game is a joy to look at. Even though there is a hefty amount of randomness when pulling cubes from a bag, each round the player has to think about the risks s/he wants to take and decide accordingly. I lost my first game, but I'm eager to play again.

Recommended if: you don't mind a bit of luck in your games, as long as they deliver in theme and aesthetics.

Keeper?: Yes.

(Nr of plays: 2)
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13. Board Game: Gods of Metal: The Chosen [Average Rating:8.67 Unranked]
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Availability: (temporarily?) free, at least for as long as the KS lasts.

Gameplay in a nutshell: build your deck to defeat demons and the Overlord.

Impressions: ehm. blush I know this goes against my supposedly strict aesthetic criteria, but my curiosity got the better of me. The main draw here is obviously the novelty of the theme. Other than that, it is a light filler. Since I like deck builders in general, I didn't have a bad time with it, but it is the equivalent of having a beer and listening to a song by King Diamond. I played on easy mode twice, it was indeed easy to beat the Overlord.

Recommended if: you like quirky themes in games.

Keeper?: yes.

(Nr of plays: 2)
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14. Board Game: Zombie in my Pocket [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:2680]
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Availability: free, files on BGG

Gameplay in a nutshell: find the totem and bury it in the courtyard, before the zombies take you out.

Impressions: a push-your-luck micro-game. It offers a bit of suspense, if you need a quick gaming fix. It is obviously random, but the spaces are nicely illustrated, and it succeeds in making you feel you're running out of time.

Recommended if: you have 5-10 minutes to spare.

Keeper?: yes

(Nr. of plays: 3)
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15. Board Game: Marooned! A solo game of survival [Average Rating:6.91 Unranked]
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Availability: free, files on BGG

Gameplay in a nutshell: walk around the island hoping that your rescue signals will be seen by a passing ship.

Impressions: In this push-your-luck micro-game, you move from card to card spending or gaining health points along the way, until you locate a ship. If you get lucky enough, the ship's sail will coincide with the smoke signals that you managed to make, and you'll be rescued. Luck of the draw is the ultimate driving force here, with little to no player agency. The drawings lend the game vintage charm, and it can be argued that the randomness makes thematic sense. It is pleasant, but not gamey enough.

Recommended if: you don't mind very quick, very light gaming experiences.

Keeper? yes.

(Nr of plays: 5)
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16. Board Game: The Court of Xiang Chi [Average Rating:6.84 Unranked]
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Availability: free, files on BGG.

Gameplay in a nutshell: purchase officials from the market to populate your Royal Court, making sure you have enough strength and/or money to beat the Demon Princes.

Impressions: Another pleasant puzzle by the king of beautiful pnps. The Chinese opera characters on the cards look stunning. It takes one gaming session to get used to the special abilities of each official, but their tasks make thematic sense (the ministers collaborate with the tax collectors; the courtesans draw other officials in).

Success depends to a certain degree on the timing of the Demon Princes' appearance. If they show up in mid to late game, you have enough time to buy Generals to fight them and money to support the fight. But if they show up too early, they may steal people from the market, eating away at your final VPs.

Recommended if: you enjoy light puzzles.

Keeper?: yes.

(Nr. of plays: 3)
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17. Board Game: Orchard: A 9 card solitaire game [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:3860]
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Availability: free, files on BGG.

Gameplay in a nutshell: Overlap your cards to match as many trees as you can.

Impressions: I am not the target group for abstract puzzles, but I give them a chance from time to time. Compared to the other famous spatial puzzle, Sprawlopolis, this one suits me better. Even though it's not so easy to score very high, it's not as brain-burny as the city game. I also prefer Orchard's colour scheme. I would easily play it again.

Recommended if: you like themeless puzzles, and even if you don't.

Keeper?: yes. I will also check out the KS.

(Nr. of plays: 2)
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Availability: free, files on the WIP thread.

Gameplay in a nutshell: draw a map as you try to lead a tribe of Native Americans to Canada.

Impressions: Excellent. Even though the game is categorized as roll-and-write, I would rather call the activity map-making. Every turn, you roll and assign dice to different members of the tribe in order to gain resources and explore further. Bad rolls mean procrastination and troubles. When you reach certain points on the map, you have events and encounters which you record in your journal.

I found the activity of mapping the terrain and having adventures very enjoyable. The game takes a long time to finish though, so be prepared to spend a whole evening, unless your tribe doesn't make it to the end.

Recommended if: there is no if, I highly recommend it to everyone.

Keeper?: Yes. There are more in the series of XX72, I will try them as well.

(Nr. of plays: 1)
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19. Board Game: 1972: The Lost Phantom [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:9202]
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Availability: free, files on BGG.

Gameplay in a nutshell: Try to survive and reach the river before the VietCong catch you.

Impressions: The 1872 game mentioned above left me wanting to map more territories, so I decided to tackle a different setting. In 1972: The Lost Phantom, you are an American soldier whose plane has crashed somewhere in the Vietnamese jungle. You have to fight against the odds and reach the river to save yourself. And boy, are the odds against you. Compared to 1872, this one has less possibility for dice roll mitigation. I played and lost twice, the second time just one hex away from the river...

Despite being mostly at the mercy of the dice, the experience is immersive, especially when you record your progress and the various events that befall you.

Recommended if: you are looking for a heavily thematic game and don't mind some randomness.

Keeper?: yes.

(Nr. of plays: 2)

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20. Board Game: Everything Except Air [Average Rating:5.38 Unranked]
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Availability: free, files on the designer's website.

Gameplay in a nutshell: Walk around the Martian landscape searching for artifacts and your spaceship before your oxygen runs out.

Impressions: it is by now well known that I enjoy thematic games, and I can stomach some randomness, if the experience is worth it. In this case, however, there is hardly a game besides the loose storyline. You move on tile after tile consuming air as you go, hoping you'll come across something. When you do, it is usually so heavy you cannot carry it without dying. So you drop it and move on. Even when you find a lightweight item, you cannot find your spaceship on time. Everything is totally RANDOM.

Sure, the text on the cards is well-written, and the illustrations are elegant. But the game is more akin to an activity, something to do to pass 10 minutes, since there are almost no meaningful decisions left to the player. It's pleasant to play two-three times at most.

Recommended, if: sadly, I cannot recommend it. I was more lenient with The Restoration of Ilkannon, but I have my limits.

Keeper?: no

(Nr. of plays: 4)
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21. Board Game: Maquis [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:3104]
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Availability: free, files on BGG.

Gameplay in a nutshell: Send French resistance fighters around the map to complete missions without getting caught par la police.

Impressions: The game deserves all the high praise it has received. It is clever and very pleasant to play. Thinky without becoming a chore. Every turn you have to place your men in the right spots in order to gather resources or complete certain goals. At the same time, the police patrols the area, and you run the risk of either being blocked and being unable to return to the Safe House or being immediately arrested.

The patrols are regulated by flipping a different card for each policeman, so you cannot entirely predict where they will show up. After playing a few times though, you learn which spots come up most frequently. Morale drops every few rounds, so it has to be taken care of as well.

The only issue I see here as a problem is replayability. I played through the base game missions in just two afternoons, and I think there are just a couple fan-made ones to add. It is not a one-and-done game, but once you win every mission, then you're left with recycling the same ones in different combos.

Recommended, if: you feel like playing a short but engaging pick-up-and-deliver game.

Keeper?: here is my dilemma: keep my A-ok pnp version or back the KS?

(Nr. of plays: 3 plus 2 quick restarts)
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22. Board Game: Rack Patrol [Average Rating:7.20 Unranked]
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Availability: free, files on BGG.

Gameplay in a nutshell: Try to complete as many patrols as possible before your Gato submarine is sunk.

Impressions: I had been wanting to play a submarine game but the ones I had looked into seemed to rely heavily on dice rolling. So when I saw that this PnP is card-based, I rushed to give it a try. The fact that the designer was able to simulate the submarine experience with just a deck of cards is impressive. But because the game is a simulation, it also means that everything that happens is random. You make a maneuver and hope you will approach the target. Then you hope you won't be detected, hope you'll shoot at it, and hope you won't get too much damage.

The key to achieving more patrols is probably knowing when to ignore ships and when to stop. It is easy to wrap up a session and begin a new one, and there is tension when you encounter a ship and try to sink it. Despite the faults, the gameplay is engaging, and works as a quick, light wargame.

Recommended, if: you enjoy the theme and don't mind the randomness.

Keeper?: yes.
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23. Board Game: The Draugr [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:6353]
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Availability: free, files on BGG.

Gameplay in a nutshell: Kill four draugr before too many townspeople and locations become corrupted.

Impressions: The gothic theme and artwork are the strong points in this game. Gameplay-wise, however, it leaves something to be desired. You begin with some iron and holy water in your supply, and move one or two spaces per turn, taking advantage of what each location or townsperson has to offer. In the meantime, the draugr spread corruption left and right, activated by the chits that you pull from your cup. Not that I found any fault in the mechanics, it is a solid design, if a little on the easy side. I would just have liked it to be more meaty. As it is, it doesn't make me want to revisit it after my initial plays.

Recommended, if: you feel like playing a good-looking, quick and simple game.

Keeper?: no

(Nr of plays: 4)
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24. Board Game: Zed Deck [Average Rating:6.31 Overall Rank:11684]
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Note: this entry is NOT for the original Zed Deck, but for the High School of the Zeds variant by John Paul Messerly.

Availability: free, files here

Gameplay in a nutshell: try to survive a zombie apocalypse in a manga setting.

Impressions: there are two reasons why I chose this variant over the original game: the first has to do with the win condition. Zed Deck is a beat-your-own score by gathering supplies. High School is a pure survival game in which you lose when you die. I generally prefer clear win or lose conditions, so I went for it. The second reason has to do with the artwork. I don't like photographs of real people in games, and found the ones in Zed Deck really off-putting. The variant features manga artwork of the saucy variety. Of no interest to me, but there was no other option.

Gameplay-wise, I found this to be a really enjoyable light card game. You only need 2 dice to track health and supplies (survivors that you sacrifice to pass the tests). The rest of the game is three decks of cards that you go through in succession. If you manage the first deck you proceed to the second, and then the third. The mechanism is simple press-your-luck with minimal decisions, but I find that the survival urge is strong, and makes the game a joy to play.

Recommended, if: you want a light survival game that feels like a small campaign.

Keeper?: definitely.

(Nr. of plays: many)
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