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Subject: SoloPlay variant for Vikings is now available in the files section rss

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This thread describes/discusses the design and development of the Vikings SoloPlay variant.

The download is available using the following link(s):
Vikings SoloPlay Rules

This file is #49 in the SoloPlay series.
More game files available here on the Geek can be accessed from the following Geeklist:
SoloPlay Variants Posted on the Geek

SoloPlay- BGG user GameRulesforOne
Design Goals: Create a challenging solo variants that gives you the feeling that you are playing against a real player. My hope is that by playing these variants that you will be able to improve your multi-player game skill.

Preface:
The first time that I was exposed to Vikings was many years ago at a game con in Atlanta. I had followed the game on BGG but was (and still am) not going to buy a game sight unseen. After playing the game it seemed like a very light ‘different’ kind of game that might find/work with some of my new gamer audience. Well by this time the game was gone. No one had it. I waited and waited but no reprint looked like it was going to happen. I put it on my watch list.

Seemly out of the blue there was confirmation stateside that the game was going to get a reprint and that it would be available in a couple of months. Nice. So how did it go over with the gaming public ... silence. “Would you like to try it again?” “No, that’s OK can we play King of Tokyo instead?” Uh-oh.

That’s OK. I can develop a variant and enjoy it anyway, I hope.

SoloPlay Vikings Design Comments:
As I started this project I thought quite a bit about how things would go before I even laid the game out. Would I want a competitor? What is going to drive me to not do the same thing over and over? Where is the variation?

Right from the beginning it appeared that the design space for a solo variant was going to be very slim. The game is very simple and a bunch of wonky rules was not going to over well. The game has to remain, select a group and try to figure out how to build of it.

Starting:
The first things that I knew had to happen was that the vikings and the island tiles were going to be randomly drawn and placed. No groupings. I tried this once and it was quite the snoozer. I could see how having multiple colors available for a reasonable cost could make for some more challenging decisions.

Still, as those first 5 or so playtests went, I still was not feeling it. I could pretty much do what I wanted and guiding the AI into scoring badly was simple. I had to put a little more thought into the AI selection without putting more work on the solo player.

Designing the AI:
I knew very early that the only way that this variant was going to work was to put in a situation like I used in the Alhambra variant. You were going to have to build the AI’s board. However, there had to be some thought in this to guide you to make ‘good’ decisions for the AI and not just build a set of islands that no one in their right minds would build. This came together in 2 steps.

1st – There had to be a limit on the number of islands ‘open’ on the AI’s board. If not, the end game scoring bonuses would not work.

2nd – There had to be a penalty for doing a bad job with the AI’s islands. The punishment had to be bad enough that you had to consider doing the right thing so that the AI did score a bucket load of points.

What made the variant click for me was the large scoring rounds and how the AI performs this. The ‘penalty’ for un-placeable vikings fit beautifully in with the scoring. It was simple, grounded in the rules of the game and punishing enough to make the solo player take notice. The addition of the set removal to the 2nd and 4th large scoring rounds was another key to making this work.

Once the AI was in place, I now had to find a way to beat it and it couldn’t be some random thing that makes it happen. I wanted to be in control of my destiny. The playtests after the AI was in proper were brutal loss after brutal loss. I mean I was not even close. Had I gone too far or was I just not getting it.

I started to focus on learning how to control the AI better. I learned how to balance my focus on his island construction but also on the necessity to get sets created so that the AI would have less to work with. It started to come together as I began to play the selection wheel. I need to get that bonus tile but I can’t get it unless I get the viking over there off the board. Looking at the color sequence (which is very, very important) I figured out that if I paid (gasp!) 6 coins for this set that later I could get the special tile set for 1 coin which will give me a decent amount of points.

I was having my “a-ha” moments. I finally started winning games but by the slimmest of margins. Boats seemed to be important then in the next game not so much. Then I had a chance to buy knights and then get the special tile giving an extra bump and scored a top level victory. The next game I could not get it going and lost trying to ‘corner the market’ in knights. The AI was not creating sets and started killing me with the ‘unplayables’.

I had to keep stepping back to reassess what I needed to do if something did/did not happen. I was now hooked. I played game after game trying different approaches and found great pleasure in pulling out what seemed to be an odd strategy for the victory. The multiple paths to victory showed up. I was pleased.

In the end it almost felt like there was no other way to create a good solo variant for Vikings other than the way it came out. It had that natural flow to it that so much desire that all of my variants had.

Goal of the rule design
1. Create an interactive AI
2. Give the player additional things to think about when making the set selection
3. Ensure that there are multiple paths to victory
4. Add replayability by not using all of the tiles (this was important)

Comments are always welcome.

Strategies:
1. With only 1 action option a round, you have got to look ahead and see where the color sequence is going to send the wheel to ensure that you next selection(s) are going to work in your favor.
2. The AI will have an answer for everything you try to do to it. Sabotage has its price. You are going to have to put on your semi-cooperative hat.
3. Understanding the end game scoring and the effects of the mechanics is crucial to a successful game.
4. The special tiles can be very important and an extra decision point has been added to entice (or deter) you from making the right decision.
5. No money and options are extremely limited and left to chance. The odds of victory are very low.

Final Thoughts

Setup time: about 5+ minutes
Play time: about 45-60 minutes

I would classify this as a light SoloPlay variant that should not drain every ounce of your being just to understand what I am trying to get across. As simple as the game seems, there is much here to be considered. Planning is a must. Don’t put your game on rails.

Above all, have fun.

If you have questions about the rules, you can be post them here or to this user’s mailbox to be answered individually, if needed. I will add a FAQ to this post as I see the need.

Other games that will be/are available from SoloPlay/GameRulesforOne are posted within a Geeklist that I created:
SoloPlay Variants Posted on the Geek


All new variants and information about upcoming projects will be listed there.

SoloPlay Motto:
A game that sits in a closet is a waste. Get it out and play it any way you can. These are just my ideas.
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Cagey McCageface
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rules wrote:
Bonus Scoring: If the sequence marker had to revert to the 1st color in the sequence, you gain 1 fame point.


I assume "you" means the AI scores?

Under End of Round Cleanup, should point 9 be done and the end of every round or only after large scoring (i.e. after moving AI Vikings to their islands)?
 
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jmayDET wrote:
rules wrote:
Bonus Scoring: If the sequence marker had to revert to the 1st color in the sequence, you gain 1 fame point.


I assume "you" means the AI scores?

Answer: No, you means you. The AI will get a benefit by doubling up a color. You need the point as kind of an offset. It also is a strategic decision point for you.

jmayDET wrote:
Under End of Round Cleanup, should point 9 be done and the end of every round or only after large scoring (i.e. after moving AI Vikings to their islands)?

Answer: Yes this is correct. Only after scoring when the vikings are moved to the islands are sets removed. Vikings not on islands cannot comprise a set. This is also explained in the same rule. This is why the AI vikings are not placed on its islands until large scoring. This is explained in AI Takes a Turn: 3.d.

I could have made this point more clear instead of letting the removal from on/above the AI's islands to imply when this action happens.
 
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Roland Johansson
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Hello!

Thank you for this variant

I tried it a Little yesterday, but since I'm not that
used to the real game yet, I'll try it more later

just a Quick question,
where to rotate the Wheel if there are no vikings of that color?
 
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rolle wrote:
just a Quick question,
where to rotate the Wheel if there are no vikings of that color?


Answer: Advance the color selection marker one position and rotate the wheel clockwise until the zero can point at a standing up viking of that color.

Example: The color sequence is: red, blue, black, gray, green, yellow

The color selection marker (CSM) should be in front of red for the first turn. During the start of the round you will turn the selection wheel clockwise until it points to the first clockwise standing up red viking. If there is not a standing red viking, then move the CSM forward to red and repeat for blue. If no blue, repeat and then rotate to black.

The color that the CSM is in front of always indicates the color the AI is considering for the current turn. After it makes its selection, the CSM is placed on top/above the color selected and the next color is considered for the next turn.

In the example above, the CSM starts to the left of red. After 'red' is resolved the CSM is placed on red (I place the marker 'on' and not above the last color considered, you can do either). This indicates that red was selected last turn or was not available. In either case the AI is now considering blue.

If you need any more on this, let me know. Enjoy.
 
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Roland Johansson
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thank you

but what happends after yellow in your example?

if a color is missing there are more tiles remaining
in the end
 
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rolle wrote:
thank you

but what happends after yellow in your example?

if a color is missing there are more tiles remaining
in the end

Answer: Refer to page 2: AI Takes a Turn, 1.C.i
You revert back to the start of the sequence considering red, blue etc. You also score 1 fame point anytime the sequence reverts back to the first color.

In an extreme example lets assume that all there is around the selection wheel is green. The AI would choose green and you would get 1 point. The next turn the AI would choose green and you would get another point etc. The CSM is advanced each time to the next color of which there is not one and so it returns to green each time.

It is a strategic risk to let the AI get a large amount of 1 color without island spaces to hold them. However the 5-8 points you could get by controlling the AI selection may make the difference for you.
 
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Dan C
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Wow! Brilliant variant. I hadn't done a Soloplay in a while and glad I tried this one.

2 games at easy level and won by 5 points and 11 points respectively.

1 game at normal level - ended in a tie at 55 pts each.

Thanks for creating and sharing this one. You've outdone yourself!
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Mark Harrington
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Rules question -- In end-of-round Cleanup, the AI loses full set(s) of Vikings, and they are taken off the islands. Are these removed sets taken completely out of play, or do they remain in AI's handful of vikings for the next scoring?
Thanks--
 
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mwharr wrote:
Rules question -- In end-of-round Cleanup, the AI loses full set(s) of Vikings, and they are taken off the islands. Are these removed sets taken completely out of play, or do they remain in AI's handful of vikings for the next scoring?
Thanks--

Removed from play. This is important to lessen the AI's later scoring potential.
 
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Jason BG
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Good solo variant, but am a bit unclear on one aspect.

After the AI scores for the non-placed vikings in the large scoring rounds ie the 2nd round, do we bring those vikings over to the next large scoring rounds ie 4th and 6th round (meaning it's cumulative and the vikings add up during each large scoring round) or discard them after scoring for the AI ie only score for the new non-placed vikings for each large scoring round?

Makes a lot of difference. I set the non-placed vikings from each large scoring round in separate groups. When I score without bringing the non-placed vikings over from round to round I won by 10 points. When I counted score by bringing them from round to round I lost by 10 points.

Have only played the easy level so far.
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JasonLawBG wrote:
Good solo variant, but am a bit unclear on one aspect.

After the AI scores for the non-placed vikings in the large scoring rounds ie the 2nd round, do we bring those vikings over to the next large scoring rounds ie 4th and 6th round (meaning it's cumulative and the vikings add up during each large scoring round) or discard them after scoring for the AI ie only score for the new non-placed vikings for each large scoring round?

Makes a lot of difference. I set the non-placed vikings from each large scoring round in separate groups. When I score without bringing the non-placed vikings over from round to round I won by 10 points. When I counted score by bringing them from round to round I lost by 10 points.

Have only played the easy level so far.

Note after the large scoring that a set(s) of vikings are discarded. This is the only way that they are removed otherwise, they do carry forward.

You want to work the AI into sets to control its scoring in later rounds.
 
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Bob Dyer
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First of all, let me thank you for undertaking the task of creating solo variations for all of these games. I never realized how important this is until I recently moved, lost my game playing group and have not yet found anyone for board games! I came across your list and it is helping me through for I do own many of the games you have done.

I have played Vikings many times with 3 or 4 players so I am familiar with the game. I have to admit I got clobbered by the AI in my first attempt! I just want to clarify a few rules to make certain that I did things correctly:

1. Let's say it is the first turn. The color sequence is red-blue-gray-black-yellow-green. The wheel is set at "0" at the first standing red viking. When it is AI's turn, does it look for the first standing blue or does it just take the red at 0?

2. Using the same color sequence as above, the color sequence marker is on gray. If the AI opts to take the special tile which has a yellow viking as its marker, does the color sequence marker then move to yellow skipping black in the process? If the special tile was red, would I score the bonus point?

3. I definitely did not play the expert level so I allowed myself to keep the scoring tiles. If I play the expert version, do I lose every tile (and its accompanying viking) if I used that tile in scoring? If it doesn't apply to gold, I assume this is only for rounds 2 and 4 since the end of round clean up does not happen at round 6.

4. Does the AI score points for every boat that is in a column with a gray viking? This particular rule was a killer for me! I couldn't come up with boats for myself and the AI got the maximum of 7 in its row with five gray vikings underneath them. Ouch!

I am sure I botched it up in my first play but it is something I will try again! Thank you again for your time and effort in doing this. You have made a lonely game player very happy!



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WHaven1994 wrote:
I have played Vikings many times with 3 or 4 players so I am familiar with the game. I have to admit I got clobbered by the AI in my first attempt! I just want to clarify a few rules to make certain that I did things correctly:

1. Let's say it is the first turn. The color sequence is red-blue-gray-black-yellow-green. The wheel is set at "0" at the first standing red viking. When it is AI's turn, does it look for the first standing blue or does it just take the red at 0?

A1: Takes the red zero.

Quote:
2. Using the same color sequence as above, the color sequence marker is on gray. If the AI opts to take the special tile which has a yellow viking as its marker, does the color sequence marker then move to yellow skipping black in the process? If the special tile was red, would I score the bonus point?

A2a: The selection wheel to green and yes, skip black.
A2b: Yes

Quote:
3. I definitely did not play the expert level so I allowed myself to keep the scoring tiles. If I play the expert version, do I lose every tile (and its accompanying viking) if I used that tile in scoring? If it doesn't apply to gold, I assume this is only for rounds 2 and 4 since the end of round clean up does not happen at round 6.

A3a: You lose only the tile, not the viking.
A3b: Yes

Quote:
4. Does the AI score points for every boat that is in a column with a gray viking? This particular rule was a killer for me! I couldn't come up with boats for myself and the AI got the maximum of 7 in its row with five gray vikings underneath them. Ouch!

A4: Yes
 
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