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Subject: Solo Play (3 Player Setup): An Exploration of the Races & Rulebook rss

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Danny Mack
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PREMISE
This is my first Session Report. To be fair though, I always log my plays with lots of notes. This would have gone down the same way, but I had to pack up and move halfway through the game. (Turns out taking a 2-year-old to the library to spread out your new game on their big tables is not a long-term strategy.) So lots of notes resulted from the move, which took place at the end of my 2nd turn. This was my first play of Cry Havoc, and I chose the 3-player option so I would be able to teach the game effectively to others. I'll probably take some flack for logging a solo player session, but c'est la vie. I wanted to work my way through the rulebook on my own and experience all of the races and as many of the cards as possible, working out the sticky points of play that might come up, prior to my 1st teaching session.

INITIAL SETUP
1st Player: Humans started in the SE, with their default skill + Recon Forces.
2nd Player: Pilgrims started in the SW, with their default skill + Data Extract.
3rd Player: Machines started in the north, with their default skill + Transform.

T1
The Humans lucked into a mild Trog resistance and a sweet exploration token when they moved north into Feralas Banks on their 1st conquest. This set them up for an easy conquest on T2, moving west...
The Pilgrims weren't so lucky (or were they?) getting trounced on their first conquest attempt in the Darkwald region; this set up a barrier to northern expansion that would last the rest of the game...
The Machines rolled into the Sansa Grove region, easily, and set up shop right away with 3 structures.

T2
The Humans next walked into the Sapos Deep region and set up Artillery and an Airfield, promptly chucking a token across the board into the Cameron Seas region, intending to soften up their next target.
Meanwhile the Pilgrims took a run at Cameron Seas and got shut out again by the Trogs, but that planted another nest. Afterward, they finally had some success in the Jindar Sound region as well as the Ashlas Wetlands: they took out both of the regions on their southeastern front and set up all 3 structures in the corner pocket.
The Machines fired up their Factory, took out both the Singe Peaks & Sendero, and began picking off Humans & Trogs near their southern border with their Drones & Orbital Sniper. Finally, they jumped into 1st place in turn order, heading into T3...

INTERMISSION
So when the move happened, this was the situation:
The Humans had 9 points, 1 Trog prisoner, 12 total cards, HQ+2 regions (with 2 units in all 3 of them), controlling 2 gems.
The Pilgrims had 6 points, 2 Trog prisoners, 10 total cards, HQ+2 regions (with 7 units massed in Jindar Sound), controlling 6 gems & 4 more in their pool.
The Machines had 7 points, 1 Trog prisoner, 12 total cards, HQ+3 regions (with 6 units massed in Singe Peaks...for no particular reason...), controlling 10 gems.

T3
The Machines triggered scoring and Pilgrims finally triggered their Examination skill (for 5 points). Both Humans & Pilgrims took heavy losses against the defending Trogs, taking over Gorge West and Sahar Ridge respectively. Once again the Machines easily rolled into new real estate--this time the Mataka Swamp region (which held 5 gems!)
After scoring, the Machines & Pilgrims were tied with 31 points, while the Humans had only 26. The Pilgrims moved into 1st place in turn order heading into T4.

T4
After the event dropped 6 gems off the board--only in Machine regions--the Pilgrims triggered scoring. But then Humans took 2 regions on the last action (in addition to defaulting for +5 points), in so doing they shifted 4 gems away from the Pilgrims and 2 from the Machines. More importantly, they had taken the Machines' bread basket by popping over from Gorge West, and shutting down all 3 structures.
The scoring round added +14 to Pilgrims, +10 to Machines, and +18 to Humans, making the total score for T4: Humans=49 / Pilgrims=45 / Machines=42.

T5
Having just made themselves a target in the previous turn, the Humans were at the epicenter of the action at the end of the game. For their 1st action, the Pilgrims walked right into 3 Human regions (2 of which were empty!). The Humans got burned by turn order here, as they defaulted for 5 points only seconds later.
For their final action of the game, the Pilgrims defaulted for 9 points, and everyone scrambled for useful Tactics cards.
The Humans were defending in 5 of the 6 battles this turn:
#1. The Pilgrims reclaimed the Sahar Ridge from the Defending Humans.
#2. The Humans took the Foglands back from the opportunistic Pilgrims, with a little help from a Watchtower token and an Artillery token.
#3. The Humans were unable to oust the incursion of Pilgrims in the Gorge West region.
#4. The Machines easily retook the Sansa Grove from the impudent Humans.
#5. The Humans lost control of the Feralas Banks to the invading Machines, but their entrenched defenses allowed them to wipe out all 3 invading units!
#6. A lone Pilgrim committed suicide, attempting to take the virgin Kalas Ravine region away from 4 freshly-awakened Trogs.
The scoring round added +18 to Pilgrims (from 5 regions), +23 to Machines (from 6 regions, including 2 fivers) and only +4 to Humans (with only 2 regions remaining).

FINAL SCORES & THOUGHTS
Humans=65 (w/ 2 prisoners)
Pilgrims=78 (w/ 2 prisoners)
Machines=69 (w/ 3 prisoners)
If this game had gone for 6 rounds there's no doubt the Machines would have won; their momentum was unstoppable, and they controlled half the gems. The Humans were nearly wiped of the face of the planet because they were caught in the middle between both of the other races (who couldn't attack each other)--because they had kicked the hornets' nest in Turn 4...bad timing. Note to self: shorten the game (if possible) when playing against Machines, and don't be the front runner going into the last turn. Also if the Pilgrims had succeeded in their early conquests it would have been a whole different game--so, antagonizing the Trogs isn't a bad defensive maneuver.
This was immensely fun to play, even by myself. I'm eager for my first "real game" and my only concern is that I may have to bump Small World from its place at the top of my favorite games list...this is riveting & immersive. (Well done, Grant & crew!)

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
What really helped me start wrapping my brain around the flow of Cry Havoc and begin to grasp the potential card-built strategies of this game was the stellar playthrough video posted on BGG by HappyHexagon. It was 3-player, fast-moving, and lots of zooming-in to invite the viewer into both the action & decision making. Videos like that make the viewer feel more at home after their own unboxing, and more experienced (even if only vicariously) when sitting down to their own first game.

EDITS for spelling.
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Kevin Garnica
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Wow, bumping Small World? Riveting and immersive? wow

That's very high praise coming from you.
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Danny Mack
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I know, right?
It's unsettling how much I immediately liked this.
I've gotta give it time, let it breathe a bit, and see how I feel after our friends-in-common beat me at it a few times.
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Grant Rodiek
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Glad you liked it.
 
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Kevin Garnica
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Well, any game that can potentially de-thrown Small World for you is a worthy contender. Let's to it!

 
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Jeremy Rivea
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My wife unfortunately has fallen through on her initial promises to play, so I have played 4-5 solo games, and have found them surprisingly challenging. Even literally being in my own head, when I get around to the other side of the table I have often had sudden realizations and flop sweat moments where I totally kick my ass. While I definitely love bringing it to Board game night, I have found a lot of fun in Solitaire Cry Havoc. Next time I will do 4 player solitaire to practice my Trog stomp.
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Jon Snow
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I also usually do a solo play with a new game to get it down. And after many games of CH I've still only done a 4 Player solo due to a couple of last minute cancellations! But I do include solos in my game statistics; its perfectly legitimate for me. Sometimes I continue playing alone when opponents are scarce! I'm always surprised at how many posters here say they can't do it.

Maybe they are too focused on winning, instead of enjoying the overall drama of a particular game.
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Danny Mack
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chas59 wrote:
I'm always surprised at how many posters here say they can't do [solo play]. Maybe they are too focused on winning, instead of enjoying the overall drama of a particular game.

I think that's highly probable. And it's a shame, because there's plenty of drama to keep you running around the table in this game.
I've been sitting on this puppy for almost 2 weeks now with no plays--if I don't get one soon I'll be breaking it out for another solo session. Not sure if I'm ready yet to get my "Trog stomp" on though...we'll see.
 
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