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Subject: Solitaire Variant: Cthulhu Rising rss

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Dale Buonocore
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First of all, kudos and thanks to Lee Murdock for his initial solitaire variant posting, which served as the catalyst for the development of this one. Many thanks!

In this variant, you will be playing against an AI opponent (one of Cthulhu’s many minions) who will be referred to as MINION from this point on. You will be playing within the usual 2-player parameters, except where otherwise noted. Victory conditions remain unchanged. MINION can use any playable deck -- I prefer a 2-faction Ancient Ones deck of 50-55 cards with 60-65% Characters, but there is much flexibility here. For example, you could even utilize a 3 or 4 faction deck (as resource matching is not an issue for MINION), or even play an Ancient Ones deck yourself against a AI human deck, with only minimal adjustments needed.

SET-UP: Your set-up proceeds normally, and MINION just shuffles his deck -- you’ll also need some way of tracking his available resources, which will work for all of his factions (I just use a D6).

MINION’s Turn:

Refresh: As usual.

Draw: MINION will draw 3 cards, except on his first turn when he draws only 2. Characters come into play ready and for free. Support and Event cards go into his “hand” (a separate area off to the side, face-up so you can see them).

Resources: His supply of resources is set at 4.

Operations: He will first put into play any viable (i.e., playable, provide some benefit, and he is able to pay relevant costs) Support cards, spending available resources as needed. Then he will play any viable Event cards in the same manner. In both cases, if there are multiple options to choose from, he will choose the highest cost one -- if there are equal cost options to choose among, use a D6 or some other way to randomly pick one. All un-played cards will remain in his hand for possible future use. NOTE: MINION can play viable Disrupts and Responses during your turn.

In general, use your best judgement to make the most logical/beneficial choices for MINION when uncertainties arise -- there are many card abilities and variables interacting in many ways, and all of them can’t be covered here. But here are a few examples of ones which have arisen thus far, and the ways I have chosen to handle them: 1) if a card refers to the ”number of drained domains,” consider that number to be 1; 2) if a card directs MINION to choose a card from his deck, draw cards and pick the first one fitting specified parameters (RECOMMENDED REVISION: for a "smarter" and tougher MINION, go through his deck and pick the highest cost card fitting specified parameters); 3) if MINION must discard a card from his hand or sacrifice one from play, he will pick the lowest cost one fitting specified parameters, if any; 4) if he is directed to look at the top X cards of his deck and put them back in any order, he will place them from highest cost down.

Story: NOTE: MINION skips this phase on his first turn.
1 -- His highest cost ready Character holds back, preparing to defend on your turn;
2 -- His second highest cost Character (if he has one) commits to the leftmost Story (assuming he can -- if not, he will “trade places” with the highest cost character, who will then commit);
3 -- His #3 Character (if he has one) will hold back;
4 -- #4 will join #2 if you have at least 2 ready Characters; otherwise, he commits to the middle Story;
5 -- and so on, until all of his even # ready Characters have committed. (Note that MINION’S Characters will join previously committed ones until they equal the number of your ready Characters; then his next Character will commit to the next Story to the right...).

Then you can commit your Characters as usual, and the struggles will resolve from left to right. For his actions, MINION will first use any viable Character abilities, then any viable Event cards -- and, as noted above, he will choose the highest cost ones when there are multiple options. Whenever MINION loses a Combat Struggle and must take a wound, it will go on his lowest cost vulnerable committed Character. Similarly, when he wins an Arcane Struggle, he will ready his highest cost committed Character.


YOUR Turn:

You will proceed as usual. During your Story phase, MINION will respond as follows:

1 -- His highest cost ready Character will commit to the leftmost Story at which you have a committed Character;
2 -- His #2 (if he has one) will commit to the next Story to the right at which you have a committed Character; if there aren’t any, he will join #1;
3 -- and so on, until all of his ready “defending” Characters have committed. (Note that MINION will essentially try to commit at least one Character to every Story where you have a committed Character, moving from left to right, and will then re-cycle from the leftmost one with any additional Characters...).


That’s pretty much it -- I hope I explained it reasonably clearly. You can increase the difficulty level by having MINION draw 4 cards each turn, although I haven’t been brave enough to try that yet. Or maybe flip a coin to determine whether he draws 3 or 4 cards each turn (thus bringing the average draw up to 3.5)? Similarly, you can decrease the difficulty level by having MINION always draw only 2 cards each turn (or maybe an average of 2.5, as noted above). [EDIT: In fact, I would now recommend starting at that 2.5 level and adjusting from there if/as desired -- after many more plays, that's actually where I'm presently playing as my "normal" difficulty level.]

Plays rather nicely overall, providing more of a real 2-player experience. So if you give it a try, let me know what you think -- any questions, feedback, and/or suggestions for improvement will be most welcome. Thanks for your attention.


[EDITED: To incorporate one small recommended revision to MINION's play making him just a little tougher and "smarter" than he already is...! And again, to clarify his use of Disrupts and Responses. And once more, to note a simple way of decreasing the difficulty level a bit if desired.]
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Chris
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I just purchased this hoping to come up with a solo variant - looks like maybe I won't have to now! I'm gonna try this this week and let you know how it goes.
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Dale Buonocore
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Hope you have fun with it -- do let me know how it goes! Thanks.

I just barely eked out a win (3 Stories to 2, with MINION only 1 Success token away from his 3rd Story) last evening using a Miskatonic/Agency deck against MINION's Cthulhu/Yog-Sothoth deck. That was a very exciting game -- I really thought he had me right from the start, as he quickly started with an awful lot of characters, but managed to hang in, chip away, and pull it out at the end with one last "all in" effort strategically targeting all 3 Stories. Whew!

So, I thought I'd offer a few clarifications which seemed appropriate after further play.

Mainly, when uncertainties arise regarding which of multiple viable options MINION should choose, the principle of making the most beneficial choices for him (choosing the highest cost one among equally good options, then using the D6 to break any remaining ties) generally works well. These issues seem to come up most frequently during his Operations phase, where you first look at his viable Support cards (if any) and play the most expensive one(s), paying from his initial pool of 4 resources as warranted -- then, in a similar manner, to his viable Event cards -- and, finally, to his viable Character abilities. The one exception here involves Support cards which allow him to spend "X" resources to do something nasty to you, such as Blackmoor Estate -- in such cases, play any/all other viable Support and Events cards first, then finish with these, using up all of his remaining resources. So, indeed, MINION's Character abilities are his lowest priority -- but this seems to be nicely counter-balanced by his other advantages, such as being able to immediately play all drawn Characters for free.

Also, when MINION wins a Story, should he execute that Story's effect? If doing so would clearly be more beneficial to him, then yes -- if it would clearly be more beneficial to you, then no -- and if it's essentially a "toss-up," use the D6 to randomly decide.

And be aware that you have one particularly useful "edge" over MINION: you can generally anticipate and sometimes manipulate which of his ready Characters he will commit to which Stories (except when he's randomly choosing between 2 or more equal cost ones -- but even then you can at least narrow the odds). Use this knowledge well. This is the "edge" that helped me win that game noted above once I fully saw it's full value and how to best use it, and it turned out to be quite critical when he brought in the Ravager from the Deep near the end, and I had to try to lure him to a different Story than the one I actually had a chance to win on that last turn.

So I hope those clarifications prove somewhat helpful. Again, please use your best judgement to resolve uncertainties which arise -- and feel free to share such encountered situations along with how you chose to resolve them, as that will undoubtedly prove helpful to others.

Thanks again for your attention. And, by the way -- what a great game, isn't it?!

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Chris
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Hey there!

So after playing three games, I'm quite enjoying this! Some thoughts that admittedly come from someone not familiar with the card pool and who has never played two-player:

1) When deciding between which of Minion's characters to commit in the event of equal costs, I'm first using whichever one would win the Investigation struggle (on the assumption that Minion's first priority is to win story cards) and then the next priority is whichever one would cause a Combat challenge victory, assuming that eliminating my characters is the next priority.

2) I'm playing that Minion will attempt to use up all of his remaining resources via event or character action (in order of highest playable cost to lowest) at the end of my story phase.

3) I think, in order to facilitate Minion's ability to invoke character actions, that I'll award him another resource each time either he or myself score a story card. This widens his available actions as he either grows in power or grows more desperate.

Anyway, those are just my thoughts after a whopping three plays ever. Thanks again for making this playable solo, and I'll continue to report back which anything else I see as I explore this terrific game.
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Dale Buonocore
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These all sound like excellent ideas. Allow me to comment on each...

1) This would definitely result in MINION's playing more intelligently. Might consider (for the sake of simplifying things) just prioritizing the one with the most Investigation icons, then the most Combat icons -- and could even continue this decision-tree into, e.g., Terror, Skill, Arcane...?
2) This is essentially what I do, and it does seem appropriate and right.
3) This could really kick up MINION's strength another notch!

I've been finding MINION to be a formidable opponent as is, and with your tweaks, I fear he'd be thumping me quite regularly. Then again, I really do prefer a tough AI opponent, and somehow, in this game, that seems especially appropriate. How have you been doing against him thus far utilizing these tweaks? I'm tied with him so far the original way: 2 wins & 2 losses...

Thanks so much for sharing these ideas -- I may very well give them a try when I'm feeling confident enough to take on this more powerful MINION...!
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Chris
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That's a good point re: (1) - it certainly would make things a bit simpler, and also bring the player back just shy of even with Minion in terms of having a fighting chance (since you could work out ahead of time what Minion's play will be).

BTW I lost all three games I played yesterday, 3-1, 3-1, and 3-2. I'm not prepared to say I didn't make any rules mistakes, but it definitely captured the flavor of Arkham Horror et al, in terms of being up against an unstoppable foe .

I wonder - one of the things that may reduce the amount of brain burn (since I found I spent most of my time trying to figure out how Minion's turn would play out ahead of time) might be to inject a random card drawn by Minion somewhere in the turn order, to account for unexpected "gotcha" plays by an opponent. Not sure how this would fit in the framework, or even if it's needed, but it's something I might play around with to see how it feels.

Some other tweaks I might try out:

1) Instead of Minion always committing leftmost first then cycling through the cards on his turn, I wonder if he would prioritize his committals in order of the story cards that he has the most success tokens on, then if there's a tie there prioritize by the story cards that I have the most success tokens on, then finally go left to right. Again, need to see how that plays out but it might throw some very interesting strategic choices in the mix, particularly when it comes to playing attachments on Story cards and trying to manipulate him into committing to a particular story. It also might add some tension in moving the focus between different stories from turn to turn.

2) You make a good point about the resource tokens. Instead of giving him another resource token every time either of us takes a Story card, try it just when I take one. That would provide a max resources of 6 for him in any given game, which seems more than enough given his freeplay of characters.

3) I also wonder how a graduation of Minion's draw would work. For instance, perhaps he starts with drawing 3 cards per turn, but draws one less for every story card he wins?

Just more food for thought from a very inexperienced player - look forward to playing through some more and exploring this!

Also, so far I've exclusively played with and against two-faction decks of about equal parts characters and other stuff. Not sure how that might change when I get a larger card pool.
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Dale Buonocore
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After two solid wins tonight utilizing the priority-tree noted above (i.e.: Investigation>Combat>Terror>Skill>Arcane>then random if still tied) for breaking ties among MINION's equal cost cards when selecting for pretty much any reason (e.g., committing to Stories; or, in reverse, which to take a wound), I'm quite liking that tweak -- thanks so much for that suggestion. It really does simplify things nicely, while allowing you the player to be better able to anticipate how MINION will be committing his Characters to Stories. Oddly, it is now clearer that there are also advantages for MINION in just randomly making those choices as originally specified, as this reduces the predictability of his choices. So I'd say a valid case could be made for both procedures.

So, to kind of counter-balance this, I'm going to try out including that other tweak as well, i.e., MINION's gaining +1 Resource each turn for each Story scored -- I now think this wouldn't be too much of an added advantage for him, but... we'll see.

I'm also intrigued by your #1 additional possible tweak idea above -- i.e., having MINION commit his Characters according to the number of Success tokens on Stories (his most>your most>left-to-right). May need to give that a whirl and see how it plays out.

Anyway, more exploration and play-testing seems warranted in order to optimally fine-tune this variant, eh? I'll leave the original version as is until I'm fully confident that any changes should actually become "official" rather than just serving as options (variants of the variant?!). Thanks so much for sharing your feedback, experiences, and ideas, and please continue to do so.

And what a fun game, isn't it? Just dripping with theme and narrative richness, telling another chapter in each game's story as each turn unfolds. A true delight.



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Chris
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Sent a GM with a bunch more ideas (didn't want to take up space here with them just yet); do let me know what you think!
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Jonny Hansen
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Just one quick question:
Would it be possible to incorporate some of the deluxe expansions in this version or it is for the core set only?

thanks for a great solitaire variant
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Dale Buonocore
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Yes -- deluxe expansion stuff is easily incorporated. I've done so with the Order of the Silver Twilight and Secrets of Arkham expansions.
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Jonny Hansen
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Thanks
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Craig Andrews
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I wasn't sure how well this would play at first as it seemed like little more than a play both sides solo variant but actually it played really well.

The automatic play of MINION characters and the set number of MINION resources works brilliantly when coupled with the order of play of characters/cards.

I was soundly defeated in my first game (I used the core sets, Cthulhu/Syndicate/1 vs Miskatonic/Agency/2) and am looking forward to playing again.

Craig
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Judy Krauss
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Thanks, Dale. I have the game, but no one to play it with.
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Dale Buonocore
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@Craig -- Glad you're enjoying it. Don't worry -- I was getting thumped pretty consistently (which made the close games and rare wins most satisfying!), prompting my recent recommendation to utilize the "2.5" card draw difficulty level for MINION. Still tough, but consistently closer games overall.

@Judy -- You are most welcome. Hope this variant helps you to enjoy this great game!

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Kevin Eastwood
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Dale,
Great variant! One question - for creatures on the AI side, do you use their powers or are you just using the toughness and symbols to go against on the stories? Thanks for the clarification.
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Dale Buonocore
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Sorry for the delayed response --I've been off into other games, and haven't been back here in a while.

In response to your question (if I'm understanding it correctly), you do indeed use their powers/abilities as appropriate.
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Chad Ries
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Just played 3 games vs. Minion.

Trounced me all 3 times.

Minion runs a mono Cthulhu.

I ran mono Agency once and mono Miskatonic twice.

I think I am addicted to this game!
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John Tompkins
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Hi everyone.

I have wanted to get this game for ages and finally did so mainly because of this variant. I will only be able to play solo so this variant was a blessing. That said, I have a question and I apologize if it's a silly one. For the MINION starting hand, how many cards does he start with? I played my first game and started the MINION hand with 8 cards and then drew 2 more for his first turn. Since characters come into play ready and free he started with some heavy hitters right off the bat! I could never compete because I was putting out one resource a turn into my domains trying to build them up to play my cards and the MINION just kept getting more and more characters for free and in play. Could someone let me know if I am doing this properly or have botched this?

Any instructions or advice is greatly appreciated! Thank you everyone!
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Dale Buonocore
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Greetings. And thanks for Geek-mailing me regarding your question or it may have gone unanswered for who knows how long!

So, in response to your question -- MINION draws only 2 cards from his deck on the first turn, after which he draws 3 each turn. Thus it's no wonder he thumped you so soundly!

Here's the relevant section from the OP which addresses this:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"SET-UP: Your set-up proceeds normally, and MINION just shuffles his deck -- you’ll also need some way of tracking his available resources, which will work for all of his factions (I just use a D6).

MINION’s Turn:

Refresh: As usual.

Draw: MINION will draw 3 cards, except on his first turn when he draws only 2. Characters come into play ready and for free. Support and Event cards go into his “hand” (a separate area off to the side, face-up so you can see them)."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Easy enough to gloss over. Incidentally, I even noted in a subsequent comment that you can weaken MINION a bit by reducing the number of cards he draws each turn to 2.5 (on average, that is -- i.e., by randomly deciding whether he draws 2 or 3 cards each turn, perhaps by using a D6).

So give that a try, and I think you'll find that you're at least able to give MINION more of a run for his money...! Good luck, and do let me know how it went? Thanks.
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John Tompkins
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Thank you for the quick response! It's funny how something so simple can get confusing when thought about too much?? Thanks Dale for clearing things up. I really appreciate you taking the time to set me straight!
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Dale Buonocore
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You are most welcome. As a fellow solitaire gamer, I'm so glad I could help. Good luck (and much fun!) as you take on MINION...!
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jeremy dimichina

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as others have stated I am a solo gamer only for most part besides RPG tabletop GMing lol. So now that there is finally a good viable solo variant I'm getting this today!!!! p.s. you rock
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Dale Buonocore
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Thanks! I hope you find this solo variant for this excellent game to be great fun. Good luck against MINION -- enjoy!
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jeremy dimichina

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quick question. what happens if the minion doesn't draw a character card on his first turn does that mean that the story is not defended and thus get's two clue tokens on that spot. I would assume that the minion would redraw corrent? I have never played this before and am having fun just trying to wrap my head around it


 
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Dale Buonocore
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Actually, no -- you don't re-draw for MINION. You just get an early break. Don't worry -- MINION is plenty tough. So happily take advantage of that rare window of opportunity before it slams shut on you, which it will do quite quickly...
 
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