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Subject: Solitaire Variant: Raphael's Challenge rss

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Dale Buonocore
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Warren
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After receiving this game (among others) from “Santa” last Xmas, it kind of got overshadowed by the various other Euros and customizable card games also acquired around that same time, and thus wound up gathering dust on one of my piles until I rediscovered it a few weeks ago. And it turned out to be quite a delightful surprise. I was especially struck by how nicely the theme shines through the mechanics, which is not a particularly frequent occurrence in terms of Euros (although generally this is not much of an issue for me, as my imagination usually serves me well in finding ways to satisfactorily weave the theme into the gameplay even with games where that gap is pretty wide).

Anyway, it wasn’t long before the basic structure of a relatively simple solitaire variant presented itself, and with some subsequent play-testing and tweaking, I humbly offer it here for those who would be interested in a viable way to play this game solo...

You’ll be playing against an AI/bot who will be referred to as Raphael from this point forward. You will essentially utilize the standard 2-player set-up and play within those parameters, incorporating all 3 of the included expansion modules. You will play normally. Raphael (who is well funded by wealthy backers) is always considered to have whatever paints he needs, has no need for Thalers, has no worries about the mood of his Apprentices, and will score VPs in the usual manner. A D6 will be needed to help Raphael make some of his decisions, and he plays as follows:

SET-UP: Raphael will use 2 Master Painters (MPs) -- I just borrow one of a different color -- for choosing his get-up time, and will place one MP with the Bishop in the center fresco tile (the 24 VP one) in the Cathedral. His other MP will go on the S2 starting space, and thus you will start as the 1st player for the first round.

Raphael will always set his 5 Apprentices on his Action Sheet as follows: 2 for the Market; 1 (and the D6) for the Cathedral; 1 for the Studio; and 1 for the Workshop.

GET-UP TIME: On Raphael’s turn, he will randomly (e.g., use the D6, re-rolling as warranted) select 2 of the get-up times available. With regard to determining play order, only his earliest rising one counts. Note that these two MPs will block options for you if he goes first, and that sometimes (i.e., if you go first and take either the earliest or the latest slot) the turn order is then set and you need not roll the D6 for his placements -- just put the one of his color above or below yours, as appropriate, to note the turn order.

PERFORMING ACTIONS: On his turn, Raphael acts as follows...

Market: Randomly chooses 2 booths (e.g., use the D6: 1/2 = 1st, 3/4 = 2nd, 5/6 = 3rd) and closes them (NOTE: Becomes irrelevant when you go first).

Cathedral: He will move his MP to the lowest value adjacent tile (including the diagonals) and restore that segment of the fresco. He cannot move the Bishop, but will get any associated bonus points. He will get the designated VPs, and keep the tile in anticipation of fulfilling some of the Bishop’s requests when feasible.

Then, roll that D6 -- on a result of 5/6, he will restore another segment of the fresco in exactly the same manner.

In the unlikely event that there are no adjacent tiles, his MP will move to the lowest value tile currently on the board and restore that segment of the fresco. In the event of ties, you get to choose which one he selects.

Studio: He will randomly (yup -- use the D6) choose one of the 3 options, either blocking the 1st or discarding the selected Portrait card (again, irrelevant if you go first).

Workshop: If he can fulfill any Bishop’s request (general or special), he will do so, choosing the highest value option.

Lastly -- if Raphael’s MP on the victory point track lands on a space already occupied by your MP, he will always move forward to take those extra VPs.

That’s pretty much it. Seems to play pretty smoothly once you get the hang of it. If you give it a try, any feedback and/or suggestions for improvement would certainly be appreciated.

Note that the difficulty level is easily adjusted by tweaking the D6 result needed for Raphael to restore a second segment of the fresco. The noted 5/6 level (where approximately 1/3 of the time he will restore a second segment) seems to serve as a reasonably good balance point so far -- I lost my last game 144-141. However, to strengthen Raphael and thus increase the difficulty level, simply use 4/5/6 (where about 1/2 the time he’ll restore a second segment) instead, and so on.

Thanks so much for your attention.
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Pedro Rama da Silva
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thanks for this

I might give it a try tomorrow (or asap) and will post feedback and score.
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Dale Buonocore
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Warren
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Excellent. I'll look forward to hearing how it went for you.
 
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Julie (Juju) B.
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Herriman
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Thanks for posting this, had fun with the variant. One question, what does Raphael do on the final round (second side of the board)?
 
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Dale Buonocore
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Glad you had fun with the variant, and thanks for your question. If I'm understanding it correctly, the answer is that Raphael will play his 5 Apprentices as usual during the final round -- i.e., 2 at the Market, 1 at the Cathedral, 1 at the Studio, and 1 at the Workshop.

Is this how you played it? And does this response answer your question in a satisfactory manner? Please let me know if I missed the mark here (it's late, and bedtime beckons)...!
 
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Julie (Juju) B.
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Yes, this is how I played, but didn't know whether he has one more turn at the cathedral instead of maybe the workshop at the end.
 
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Kevin Haar
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St.Charles
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Played 3 games of this and won by 11, 26, and 30. I then tried increasing the difficulty level by allowing Raphael to paint an extra tile on a 4,5,6 roll and still won (much closer this time), but felt like the game went too quickly with extra tiles being removed. I went back to using 5/6 for an additional tile, but I decided to give Raphael victory points in the studio for painting portraits instead since his only function there is to block me. I gave him victory points each round equivalent to the coins that the card would grant. That kept the game much closer. I won by 2!
Really truly appreciate all of your solo variants. I think you create the best variants on the Geek! I have also tried your City of Iron, Village, and Kingsburg variants. I now am basing my purchases partially on whether or not you have a solo variant available for it. I've had Dominant Species on my shelf for two years without a play. I'm excited to try out your newest variant on it. Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing all of your efforts!
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Dale Buonocore
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Greetings. Sorry it took me so long to respond -- I kind of lost track of this particular thread by somehow neglecting to subscribe to it, but finally managed to stumble my way back here and have now done so.

Anyway, so glad to hear that you're enjoying this variant and playing around with it a bit by trying out various tweaks to improve the balance -- I appreciate your sharing them here.

And thank you so much for your very kind words! I have found designing solitaire variants (which I used to do anyway, just for myself, as I am primarily a solitaire player) to be a truly joyous and fun process -- and certainly being able to share them with others here on BGG has proven to be a great pleasure indeed. And hearing that others find them worthwhile and enjoyable is a wonderful bonus, like that old "icing on the cake." So thank you once again for your kind words -- they are deeply appreciated.

Ain't this hobby grand?!







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Scott Payne
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Hi. I have enjoyed this solo variant as well. Since I own Fresco Big Box I'd like to incorporate some of the expansions in solo play. Have you played around with any of them in your solo games? Do you have any suggestions to share regarding those being included?
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Dale Buonocore
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With the exception of those 3 expansion modules included in the original version I have, I am not familiar with whatever ones are additionally included in that "Big Box" version you mentioned -- so I am afraid I am less than no help in terms of answering your question.

But perhaps others familiar with them could comment on incorporating them? And feel free to experiment with your own ways of incorporating them -- and then please report back here to share what you tried and how it went? Thanks.
 
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Nim Chimpsky
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Elad wrote:
You will essentially utilize the standard 2-player set-up and play within those parameters, incorporating all 3 of the included expansion modules.


Does this mean using the Leonardo rules, or are you only playing with Raphael?
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Dale Buonocore
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It's been so long since I played this game...

I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't clearly remember whether I incorporated Leonardo (the "dummy player" used in normal 2-player games) into this variant or not. blush I don't think so, though, as this would have entailed specified procedures for how he would play, and so he would thus more-or-less serve as kind of an additional "bot" to manage. And since I did not mention him at all (let alone specifying how to manage him), I'm pretty sure the answers to your question is no.

However... seems to me he could be incorporated fairly easily if desired -- all that would be required are decision-making procedures for how Raphael would manage him...
 
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Nim Chimpsky
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Elad wrote:
It's been so long since I played this game...

I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't clearly remember whether I incorporated Leonardo (the "dummy player" used in normal 2-player games) into this variant or not. blush I don't think so, though, as this would have entailed specified procedures for how he would play, and so he would thus more-or-less serve as kind of an additional "bot" to manage. And since I did not mention him at all (let alone specifying how to manage him), I'm pretty sure the answers to your question is no.

However... seems to me he could be incorporated fairly easily if desired -- all that would be required are decision-making procedures for how Raphael would manage him...


Thanks for the quick response (and for making the variant)! I ended up playing without Leonardo, and it worked well. I think using Leonardo may speed things up a bit, and I like the ability to just speed things up by adjusting the die roll to increase his chances of doing two tiles each turn instead of one.
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Carl Mills
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Brainerd
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I tried this variant and loved it! It was very fun and the game was close. I am super excited now because no one in my immediate family ever wants to play this game so I can try it from time to time solo. Thanks!
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Dale Buonocore
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You are most welcome. Glad you enjoyed it! And thanks for taking a moment to share this positive feedback -- much appreciated.
 
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Warren Paolucci
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Out of curiosity, how have most of your guys’ game ends been triggerred? By hitting the 6-tiles-or-less condition, or laying out the last pair of Portraits cards? The Portraits limits the game to 9 rounds. Just near the end of my first ever game of Fresco (using this variant - thanks Elad!). Losing by 10 ☹️ Pretty hard variant with the bot getting 1-2 tiles every round, then getting the bonus Bishop’s request tile every third tile he restores. Guess I’ll get better over time.
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Warren Paolucci
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WarrenPaolucci wrote:
Out of curiosity, how have most of your guys’ game ends been triggerred? By hitting the 6-tiles-or-less condition, or laying out the last pair of Portraits cards? The Portraits limits the game to 9 rounds. Just near the end of my first ever game of Fresco (using this variant - thanks Elad!). Losing by 10 ☹️ Pretty hard variant with the bot getting 1-2 tiles every round, then getting the bonus Bishop’s request tile every third tile he restores. Guess I’ll get better over time.


Hah! Managed to win by 1 point!! Thanks again Elad!
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Dale Buonocore
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You are most welcome -- glad you are enjoying it!
 
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James Cartwright
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Haven't played Fresco in a while and no one in the family was interested in playing it so this solo variant was ideal for relearning the rules and enjoying the game :).

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