Ava Jarvis
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The general consensus of the 1-Player Guild is thus: the solo game that comes in the box of Castles of Mad King Ludwig is not good enough for repeated, general play. The solo game is in particular missing the soul of the multiplayer game: that is, the builder role, both being the builder and being a customer of the builder. Money is also a problem in the solo game in ways that it is not in the multiplayer game (if you are canny enough), resulting in lackluster play.

The Phantom Builders fan supplement seeks to remedy this by introducing a simple card-driven system to automate the builder turns of two Phantoms, and in turn their buying of rooms when you are executing your builder turn. Thus a Phantom Builders game involves setting up for a three-player game, using the three-player side of the mat.

Here is one sample card, the simplest and most common type in the deck.



In the upper right corner is a randomization element, which dictates on the builder turn of a Phantom part of the tile swapping they will do. The room slots are numbered 1-6 (from smallest money amount to greatest), and the two numbers indicate which slots to swap. Three such cards are drawn, with the additional rule that a repeated swap is not executed, but replaced with another card. Thus a sequence of 13, 25, 13 does not execute the redundant third swap, but draws another card until a different swap from the previous ones is introduced.

Note: I think this is the interesting part of the variant for those who play multiplayer and do not wish to select costs. You can vary the number of swaps, but they are pretty easy to do. I've found three to be a happy medium.

The main body of the card is used by Phantoms when buying rooms. The system uses the three favor tiles as prioritization for target rooms that a Phantom will buy. An additional price cap is listed; the Phantom will not exceed this cap when buying rooms.

In the sample card above, the Phantom will do the following:

1. Scan for rooms from 2000m to 10000m that meet the conditions of favor tile 1. If found, buy the room.
2. If nothing is bought, scan for rooms from 2000m to 10000m that meet the conditions of favor tile 3. If found, buy the room.
3. If nothing is bought, scan for rooms from 2000m to 10000m that meet the conditions of favor tile 2. If found, buy the room.
4. If nothing is bought, scan in favor priority order, from 2000m to 10000m, for rooms with a positive bonus icon for the favor tiles. If found, buy the room.
5. If nothing is bought, buy the cheapest room.

When a Phantom buys a room, that room is placed on the common Phantom tile stack. No other placement is necessary.

When a Phantom buys a room from you, you get the money as in the multiplayer game. Note that the money cap in part exists to somewhat randomize (though it is a bell distribution weighed towards 6000-8000m) the Phantoms buying the delicious tiles you place towards the high end or not.

At the end of the game, when comparing for favor scoring, the Phantoms are in league with one another and add together their room counts, areas, or etc., and halve rounding up. They aren’t too unsporting.

There are additional card effects that replicate two effects in the game that affect other players:

1. The buying of multiple rooms (the Food Room Bonus)
2. Placing rooms on top of the room deck (the Sleeping Room Bonus)

For the Food Room Bonus simulation, there exist a few cards like this:



The “Room + 1” indicates a possible bonus bought if the spending cap is not completely spent on the first room. The second room is only bought if the remainder of the spending cap can afford the second room.

For the Sleeping Room Bonus simulation, there exist a few cards like this:



The “Stack Favors” indicates a possible bonus of two randomly selected tiles from a room stack being placed on top of the room deck. This is again determined by following favor tile order, indicated here as “#1-2-3”. In other words, if favor 1 was round rooms, and favor 2 was dungeon rooms, and favor 3 was sleeping rooms, the Phantom would go for the 150m rooms (which are both round and feature dungeon rooms; that they don’t include sleeping rooms is irrelevant since the first two took priority).

“Stack Favors” only occurs when a room is successfully bought.

I am currently play-testing this variant, alongside the following racing scoring rules. For simplification, the user can neglect this part and just beat previous scores.

The racing scoring rules need fine-tuning, but basically you want to beat the aggressive Phantom scoring by the time the room deck runs out. Phantom scoring works thusly:

- Start with a Phantom base score of 40 points.
- Every “goal” room a phantom buys adds 3 points to their score; that is, a room that matches one or more favor tiles.
- Every “secondary goal” room phantom buys adds 2 points to their score; that is, a room with a positive bonus icon that matches one or more favor tiles.
- Plus the Phantoms score favor tiles end game end as outlined above, halving their collective result for comparisons.

I scored 92 points in my most recent game; the Phantoms effectively scored 97.

Keeping Track of Phantom Turns

I use the Master Builder token and place it above one of the favor tiles to indicate the current master builder, though I normally think of it as "when do I get to go?"

space 1: I go first
space 2: I go second
space 3: I am master builder

Multiplayer Play

Multiplayer play was not considered for this variant, which was designed for solo play. However, the Phantoms could add third and fourth players for a two-player game. I have not tested this.

Downloads

I will not upload to BGG until the cards are more finalized and more playtesting is done, but right now they are available at:

http://files.bilboatbagend.com/misc/phantom-builder%206.pdf

There are 36 cards, and they fit into a standard magic card sleeve, as from Ultra Pro.
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Dave Daffin
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This sounds very promising, Ava!

I think that Morten's 'Automa' creation has sparked the solo-design seed in a few of us, for some our marvellous multi-player games. These are exciting times for solo gamers!

I look forward to further developments!
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Ava Jarvis
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Dave in Ledbury wrote:
This sounds very promising, Ava!

I think that Morten's 'Automa' creation has sparked the solo-design seed in a few of us, for some our marvellous multi-player games. These are exciting times for solo gamers!

I look forward to further developments!


Thanks, Dave!

I look forwards to finishing out this variant.
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Thanks for this variant -- I can already tell it's much better than the official one!

One question: I'm not quite clear about the scoring options for the phantoms. The "basic" version has them scoring via favor tiles, then halving the total. But the "racing" option has the 40 initial points, the 3 and 2 point additions during the game, etc.; but then you also add to that their favor tile totals, halved -- i.e., add the entire score they would have gotten in the "basic" version? Wouldn't that make for an astronomical score...? Or are those end points just a separate way to evaluate your game, in addition to the race challenge?

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Wretched Git wrote:
Thanks for this variant -- I can already tell it's much better than the official one!

One question: I'm not quite clear about the scoring options for the phantoms. The "basic" version has them scoring all favor tiles, then halving the total. But the "racing" option has the 40 initial points, the 3 and 2 point additions during the game, etc.; but then you also add to that their favor tile totals, halved -- i.e., add the entire score they would have gotten in the "basic" version? Wouldn't that make for an astronomical score...?

Also: I assume the player uses bonus cards as usual, right...?


Yeah, I need to work out the scoring version. That data was previously from a very unusual game, and I need more playtests to make that version of the variant realistic, and then do an actual example in the ruleset to make things clear.

And yup, player uses bonus cards as per usual in a three-player game—draw 3, choose 2, at the beginning, and gain more bonus cards in the usual way.
 
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BilboAtBagEnd wrote:
Yeah, I need to work out the scoring version. That data was previously from a very unusual game, and I need more playtests to make that version of the variant realistic, and then do an actual example in the ruleset to make things clear.

And yup, player uses bonus cards as per usual in a three-player game—draw 3, choose 2, at the beginning, and gain more bonus cards in the usual way.


Thank you!

One more thing: Do the phantoms never buy the $3,000 corridors, even if there's a corridor favor tile?

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Wretched Git wrote:
BilboAtBagEnd wrote:
Yeah, I need to work out the scoring version. That data was previously from a very unusual game, and I need more playtests to make that version of the variant realistic, and then do an actual example in the ruleset to make things clear.

And yup, player uses bonus cards as per usual in a three-player game—draw 3, choose 2, at the beginning, and gain more bonus cards in the usual way.


Thank you!

One more thing: Do the phantoms never buy the $3,000 corridors, even if there's a corridor favor tile?



When there's a corridor favor tile, they will end up buying a lot of hallways and stairs, something which I just now battled. The only way I've found to deal with this is to add an extra restriction for the corridors—phantoms buy them only if there is no cheap room to get, so the $3k corridors end up being last priority.
 
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BilboAtBagEnd wrote:
When there's a corridor favor tile, they will end up buying a lot of hallways and stairs, something which I just now battled. The only way I've found to deal with this is to add an extra restriction for the corridors—phantoms buy them only if there is no cheap room to get, so the $3k corridors end up being last priority.

Great -- that makes sense.

Rereading my earlier scoring question, I see now that it doesn't make any sense. I was confused, forgetting how the favors work...
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Wretched Git wrote:
BilboAtBagEnd wrote:
When there's a corridor favor tile, they will end up buying a lot of hallways and stairs, something which I just now battled. The only way I've found to deal with this is to add an extra restriction for the corridors—phantoms buy them only if there is no cheap room to get, so the $3k corridors end up being last priority.

Great -- that makes sense.

Rereading my earlier scoring question, I see now that it doesn't make any sense. I was confused, forgetting how the favors work...


By the way--any favors that concentrate on room placement (like completed rooms versus open doors) and money won't work. I think that's a total of three tiles, though I am very tired right now and will need to check in the morning. But just warning.
 
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BilboAtBagEnd wrote:
By the way--any favors that concentrate on room placement (like completed rooms versus open doors) and money won't work. I think that's a total of three tiles, though I am very tired right now and will need to check in the morning. But just warning.


Have you tried it with the "number of small/large room" favors as well? I had one of those last game and the phantoms scored with every purchase but 2. Not sure it's possible to catch up with that.
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Wretched Git wrote:
BilboAtBagEnd wrote:
By the way--any favors that concentrate on room placement (like completed rooms versus open doors) and money won't work. I think that's a total of three tiles, though I am very tired right now and will need to check in the morning. But just warning.


Have you tried it with the "number of small/large room" favors as well? I had one of those last game and the phantoms scored with every purchase but 2. Not sure it's possible to catch up with that.


I haven't tried that one yet. Looks like that will need to go on the pile of "do not play with this".
 
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Ok, definitely the "most small tiles" and "most large tiles" favors should NOT be played with. I'm not even sure they should be played with in multiplayer, since they are the least guiding tiles. (I mean, what happens when both appear? That kind of destroys any strategy.)

After removing those, I tried "most round rooms" and two random ones, "most sleeping room area", and "most food room area".

I managed to allow the Phantoms to score a bit to give me money, and then spent the last two builder turns denying them everything except the favor they were already ahead in (most round rooms). I had to strike a balance between feeding Phantoms rooms for money (with never a guarantee they would take it), denying Phantoms scoring rooms period, while trying to position myself to take the rooms I needed for scoring purposes. I was tempted mid-game to grab some stairs due to a bonus card, but I'm so glad I didn't; as it was, the score was 83-86, advantage Phantoms, at the end. I admit I let a crucial room slip when it was in my power not to.

More playtesting is needed to determine a good base point value, and I expect to (with a bunch of other video recording duties) to wrap this up by mid-February.

It's so hard to believe I just had a satisfying solo game of Castles of Mad King Ludwig.
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Another day, another playtest. The Phantoms beat me soundly, 89 to 73 with a 40-point base. I had three tokens moving on the scoreboard actually, to see how it felt to battle a base point of 30 versus a base point of 40 through the game. A base point of 30 I think will be the "normal" setting, 40 will be hard, and 20 will be easy.

Additionally, I'm making sure that every favor tile is different in the type of room it considers. For instance, having both a Utility room count favor and a Utility area sum favor would not be allowed. This leads to more varied Phantom prioritization.
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Barry Miller
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Any progress reports?


 
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bgm1961 wrote:

Any progress reports?




Things paused for a while. I should get back to it by the beginning of April. Maybe earlier.
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Barry Miller
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Thanks! Willing to help!
 
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bgm1961 wrote:

Thanks! Willing to help!


You're very kind!

Where I am right now: need to finalize the beta rules and the swap numbers. Writing rules is harder than I thought.
 
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BilboAtBagEnd wrote:
Writing rules is harder than I thought.

You got that right... something a lot of people don't consider when they only complain about a rulebook.

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How are things now, a couple of months later?

Was thinking of using this to play a cooperative session of CoMKL.
I'd use the 2-3 player side with with the order being player, ghost, other player, ghost, first player and so on.

The two players would build one castle in competition with the ghosts. I just wouldn't halve the ghosts points.
 
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Any recent progress or updates? I just played this multi-player and I was reminded of how boring the official solo version is.
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Are the files for this available anywhere, i.e., has Ava moved them to a different site? I wish her well, whether available or not.
 
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sarebear62 wrote:
Are the files for this available anywhere, i.e., has Ava moved them to a different site? I wish her well, whether available or not.


I was wondering the same. The link in the OP is broken and I don't see anything in the files section

Is there any other solo variants I may have overlooked?
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bill m
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I found a card generator at the site here:
http://bilboatbagend.com/phantom-builders.html
It looks similar but with nice wording to understand the criteria for the phantoms.
-bill
 
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