Dale Buonocore
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Yet another delightful 2013 Stefan Feld game -- yay! And the cube tower is very cool indeed, integrating nicely with the rest of this game’s many moving and interacting parts. All that’s missing is a way to play it solitaire...

And so I humbly offer this relatively simple solitaire variant for your consideration.

You’ll be setting up and playing within 2-player parameters for the maximum number of VPs you can get, and there will be an impeding auto-player (AP) serving to move the game along and generally get in the way of your efforts.

You’ll need a D6 to help the AP make some of his choices. The AP has no use for gold, and will not need his own player sheet. He will, however, track his Progress (via one of his discs on your player sheet), as well as his advancement on the Special Action track. He will also need Ships and Trading Posts.

You will start as the 1st player, and play as usual. The AP plays as follows...

The AP will never choose the Load Cannons (black) action, as he is working in tandem with the Pirates against you. For whichever actions become available for the current phase via the cube tower, the AP will on his turn use the D6 to select his action for that phase -- I just group the cubes dropped from the tower by color from left to right, and then use the D6 in the simplest “adjusted” way to choose (e.g., with 2 options, 123/456; with 3 options, 12/34/56; with 4 or more, just re-roll if you hit a useless number).

The AP will proceed as follows for each of the 6 actions:

SAIL -- He will move toward the nearest unoccupied port, and place a Trading Post if/when he gets there first. As usual, use the D6 to choose among equal options.

PLAN: He will first take the largest Village tile of his own (D6 to choose between differently shaped ones of the same size), then the largest neutral Landscape tile possible depending on the number of action points he has left, then go back to his own Village tiles as above should he have even more action points remaining.

PROGRESS: He will advance his disc (which is on your track), and use the D6 to choose a Progress token if he reaches one of those spaces (I first choose which “half” via an adjusted D6 roll, then which specific tile left within that half in the same manner). If the tile has an ability which he could actually use, he will keep it and use it when appropriate -- otherwise, simply discard it.

BUILD: (NOTE: This is the most complicated one, but flows well once you do it a couple of times and get the gist of it.) First, find the largest island where the AP has at least one Trading post and there are empty spaces -- the AP will initially focus on trying to build there if at all possible. If/when not, then move on to the next largest island where he has at least one Trading Post and there are empty spaces...

Then the AP will focus on building his largest tile possible there, with his own Village tiles taking priority over neutral Landscape tiles in case of a tie. Subsequently, placements (including orientation) which result in his taking (the maximum number of) Commodity tokens take priority over placements which don’t (or result in his taking fewer of them). As always, use an adjusted D6 roll to select among otherwise equal placement options.

BUY PRODUCTION TOKENS: He will start with the lowest cost tokens and take as many as he can, using the D6 to choose among equal options.

SPECIAL ACTION: He will use the appropriate Special Action (i.e., as indicated by the color of the space which his disc is on) if possible -- if he can’t do that, he will simply advance on the Special Action track.

Note that if only black cubes (Load Cannons action) fall out of the tower, the AP must pass for that phase. Similarly, should he max out on the Progress track and then select that action, or choose the Build action when he has no Village or Landscape tiles, he will also pass.

That’s pretty much it. It plays pretty smoothly overall, and it’s been quite enjoyable playing it this way when there’s no one around I can get to play this wonderful game with me. My scores have ranged from 154 VPs to 184 VPs so far, which in my limited experience seems to be in the ballpark of typical 2-player scores. Certainly other “tweaks” could be generated to help the AP play more “intelligently,” and perhaps even a true “bot” opponent could eventually be developed, although I imagine this would be quite an undertaking given the multitude of interacting choice points involved.

If you give it a try, I hope you find it to be as much fun as I have so far. Any feedback and/or suggestions for improvement would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your attention.
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Donald Dimitroff
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Beltsville
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Right now I am feeling very: turbed, pirited, heveled, combobulated, and not tinguished, so don't you dare "dis" me!
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Ah! Very nice!
Now if you could could come up with 5 or 6 different rules for each step, we could have Robots playing the game, just like the Robots in Power Grid.
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Dale Buonocore
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Thanks for your response. With regard to the idea of developing true AI/"robot" players for this game, I think I'll leave that challenge to others who are braver and more capable and than I...!
 
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Dave Richards
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De Pere
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Thank you for these rules. Now this game is available again, I'm planning on buying it soon and will definitely try your variant. Your solitair variants are great!meeple
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Dale Buonocore
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You are most welcome, and I hope it helps you to find this wonderful game to be as much fun as I have.

And thank you so much for your kind words. I am so glad others find my solitaire variant efforts to be worthwhile in terms of adding to their enjoyment of this great hobby...!
 
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Dave Richards
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I finally got this game and tried your solitaire variant. It went very smoothly and was very enjoyable. I scored 195. I think I may try making the bot a bit tougher on me, as you mentioned he's working with the pirates. When taking production tokens, I'll always have the bot make choices that would most negatively affect me, rather than rolling dice.
Thanks again!
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Dale Buonocore
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You are most welcome -- glad you enjoyed it!
 
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Jack Champagne
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Concord
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Hello,

First of all, thanks for posting this variant, so that I could play the game solo. The game box is so big that it is intimidating, even though the game is pretty straightforward, after the long setup, of course. I played tonight and got a score of 168, and played with a few variations. Whenever the AI couldn't take an action, I would re-roll until it landed on an action that it could actually take (i.e. If it couldn't build anything, it wouldn't chose that action). I didn't get whether or not this was intended, the fact that the AI might not be able to get to take an action, in your explanation of the variant, but this makes the most sense because it is the closest to how a human might play.

I also was thinking about going a step further, and that whenever the AI couldn't take any actions, it would take gold, and that gold might count as negative points for you. It also might save all gold progress it gets if this were to be a rule. It is just a thought, I have no idea if it is good or not. It might only be necessary if predefined point goals had been established beforehand.

Also, just so you know, I played with all three expansions, not that I think that affected my score more than a couple points.

Thanks for the variant,
Jack Champagne
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Dale Buonocore
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Thanks for your response. Glad you are enjoying this variant, and your variations sound interesting and would certainly be viable -- they'd just make the AP a little tougher, and bring your scores down a bit accordingly. And as I didn't develop specific "win levels" for this variant (which I do now in all of my solitaire variants!), no adjustments would be needed.

Happy gaming...!
 
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Marco Teti
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Cool. As I do with most games that look interesting, I look to see if there are solitaire/solo variants. I've just recently watched rhado run through it as it's one of his and Jen's favorite games. I like the randomness of the tower.


I digress. This variant sounds solid and interestingly enough when dimitroff mentioned power grid....... watched it and.....Wow wish many designers could do something like that in all their games.

Might have to add this to my wish list as well as power grid....
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