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Subject: Darkrock Ventures - Solo and Co-op Perspective rss

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Colin Degnan
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I backed Fire of Eidolon and one of the add-ons to that game was a copy of Magic Meeples new game Darkrock Ventures. I noticed it had a solo and co-op mode that was funded through Kickstarter, and so decided to take a leap of faith and add this game to my pledge. Darkrock Ventures is a 1-4 player game that is normally a competitive resource management, dice pairing, and strategy board game. This review is only on the solo and co-op modes as this was the primary reason I purchased this game.

If you would like to check out a solo playthrough, please check out this link: https://boardgamegeek.com/video/130235/darkrock-ventures/dar...

In Darkrock Ventures as a solo or co-op game you are trying to collect a specific amount of Metal Resources before time runs out. There are two ways you can run out of time:

1. You run out of disintegration tokens
2. You move to the final space on the Neutronium Track

You win by collecting 3 Platinum, 4 Cobalt, and 5 Iron. Note you MUST complete the round in which you obtain the necessary metals to win the game.

Suggestion for Solo/Co/op Game

I am certainly no expert in board game design, but after playing this game a handful of times as a solo and co-op game, I highly recommend you play with 2 corporations and that is it. No more, no less. I found that playing the solo scenario with one corporation, I could win the game easily. Playing the game with 3 different corporations was nearly impossible to win. 2 players has been the way to go, each game has been fought to the end, and I have won about 40% of my games which is a perfect percentage for a solo or co-op game. I tried one game at 4 players, and let’s just say it did not go well. Those players will no longer play this one with me. . . .




1 Components
In this game you get some pretty sweet custom wood pieces. The attention to detail on the lock tokens, the $ signs, and the Solar Energy makes the game feel like it is a premium edition. The Platinum, Cobalt and Iron wooden pieces are nothing amazing, but they get the job done. I have to say I REALLY like the dice in this game. The mining dice used to do your dice pairing in the game are frosted and feel great in your hand when you roll them. Can I say I wish they would have been regular sized dice? Cardstock is nice and thick, and since you will hardly be shuffling in the game I have left my cards unsleeved! Scary I know.

I do not like the player boards that are used in the game. They are tiny! The designers provided key information on these boards (details on all the different types of actions you can take) but it is so small, I had a hard time reading them, and I am only 29! Not to mention the area where you are supposed to place your workers, the meeples don’t even fit unless you put them in sideways. . . I also wish the main board for the game was bigger as it just feels cramped.

2 Art
This is one of the places this game shines, the art! I complained about the size of the player boards just above this, and half of that is because I want to see more of the art! The area where you place your workers when they have completed their actions is in their bunks! There are even little beds for them, and the designer even had the wherewithal to have these spots on both sides of the player boards, so players can choose which side of their player board they want to use.
To me the Theron Invader cards provides additional theme to the game. I am pretty sure none of the cards show the “alien race” specifically, but you get the feeling that they are hindering your work on the meteor. Overall, the art is thematic and helps pull you in to the game (you will see this in my playthrough, ha! I get pretty excited at a couple points).



Every action you can take in this game has a thematic tie into real life terms. Mining for goods, doing research, using a rover to move from location to location etc. There is no specific story line in the game, but I still feel the immersion when I am playing the game.



1 Dice Pairing
The main mechanic in this game is dice pairing. You will be placing your workers in mining stations which have a specific number (ex. 10). During your turn you will roll your rig dice (start with 1 can get a max of 3) and then you must try and pair your rig dice with the mining dice or the Neutronium die that were rolled at the beginning of the round. You see, everyone will use the same mining dice and Neutronium die, the variables between you and the other players are your personal rig dice. Now there are many locations on the board you can place workers that will allow you to affect your rig dice, and the challenge in the co-op or even solo mode, is deciding which location are the most beneficial. In the game, you must decide your locations on the board prior to rolling your rig dice, so it is difficult to know if obtaining a “+3/-3” modifier will be useful to you are not. And once you place your worker there, your teammate cannot use this action.

2 Neutronium Track
This Neutronium track plays two very important roles in the game. The first role this track plays is a simple timer. Each time you are attacked by the Theron Invaders (essentially every player turn) you must move up this track. If ever you get to the end of this track the players lose. Pretty simple right?

The second and IMO the most important role this track plays in the game is providing you with the cost of repairing your stations and mining locations. You see, just like in most co-op/solo games, Darkrock Ventures fights back by having the Theron Invaders attack you at the beginning of each players turn. This attack, if it is not prevented by the team, requires you to place damage tokens or even disintegration tokens on the affected areas of the board. Each time they attack, you move one up the Neutronium track, and the track has dollar amounts that slowly increase as you move along. This dollar amount is the cost it takes to clear a specific location of damage tokens. You are not allowed to place a worker in a location that has damage tokens if you do not have sufficient money to pay for it. This means very quickly you are going to need a lot of money in order to keep from losing!

I really like this simple yet highly effective mechanic to urge players to win the game as efficiently as possible.

3 Escalation
This game escalates QUICKLY! As a worker placement game, I would say this is not usually a normal feeling as I see worker placement games as more of an “engine building” type of game where you are collecting more workers and do more actions in later rounds. In the solo or co-op mode of this game, you need to be exporting metal round 1, or you will run out of money before you can say “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” 10 times fast! (if you can say that 10 times fast, I am impressed!) There is no lollygagging in Darkrock Ventures. Instead the game becomes a tense experience from the moment you roll the mining dice the first time!

4 Length
I have 2 kids, ages 3 and 9 months. Gaming time is hard to come by (although recently my 3 yr old has been rolling dice for me so that has been awesome!) Having a game that is challenging to beat, but does not take 20+ minutes to set up, 2 hours to play and another 20+ min to put it away is a huge plus for me. Unfortunately many of the games at this length are not as strategic as I want. This game provides me with tough strategic decisions that I have come to enjoy in a solo or co-op game. I appreciate that this game provides a challenge while also not being a 2+ hour game.

5 Neutronium
Although I would say this game is more strategic than luck based, there are still times when you just roll poorly and are stuck doing nothing during a turn. Instead of getting nothing for all of your hard work (hey now, placing meeples on the board is hard work!) you are still able to obtain Neutronium. This Neutronium provides you with a lot of neat opportunities. You can simply export it to Earth for a whopping $1 (hey something is better than nothing right?) You can use it to re-roll the Neutronium die as well. This die is rolled after you have decided on your worker locations and can be used to pair with your rig dice to mine. However in the solo co-op mode, this means you must move up the Neutronium track. . . . So you cannot do this too often!

Lastly, you can use Neutronium (or any metal for that matter) to protect a specific location from an attack. Normally if I had a meeple in a location that was attacked by the Theron invaders, my meeple being the wimp that he/she is, would run away from the location and I would lose the possibility of doing this action for the round. If you give up Neutronium or another metal you can protect every meeple in this location! BUT if you do use Neutronium for this, you once again move up the Neutronium track. . .so be careful!



1 Better Solo or Co/op Rules
I should have known that the rules to the solo/co-op mode would not be as well developed as the base game since this was a Kickstarter stretch goal. Unfortunately for me, you can tell that this did not get as much playtesting as the regular competitive mode. My hope is that at some point in the future the designer might take the time to re-look at these rules as I feel like there is a great game here, just too many corner cases etc. where the rules are not clear. Just an example of some of the questions that have come up while playing:

When the Theron Invaders attack, do you place a damage token on each individual location, or just the station itself?
Do you draw all the Theron Invader cards for the round right away, or is it just at the beginning of each players turn?
The rules say for co-op to start with $10 but only one rig die. . . Does this mean I have to be above $10 to get the 2nd rig die?
When a Theron Invader attacks the Solar Area, do you place damage there?
What do Captains do in each location? (This has mostly been solved with the FAQ that recently came out, thank you for that!)


2 Player Count
Playing this game as a co-op with 4 players was brutal. By round 2, the cost to repair is moving to almost $6 and people just do not have sufficient time to collect and export goods in that time. As I mentioned before, 2 player is pretty much perfect.

3 Cooperation
I know I may be asking too much hear, but I wish there was a way that you could help each other. When you play this as a co-op, you really are just playing a dual solitaire game. You cannot give workers to another player, cannot give money, resources, anything really. You are two separate entities working for a common goal. This might work for some people, but for my wife and I we love collaborating together, sharing our resources to help each other out, and we just couldn’t do that. I think the only way I was able to help Monica once was me using up a Neutronium to re-roll the Neutronium die so hopefully she got something that worked with her rig dice.



Setup: 3-5 minutes.
Takedown: 3-5 minutes
Playtime: 30-45 minutes playing the co-op or solo game



As a solo or co-op game, the biggest issue I see is replayability. There is only one “scenario” which is fine, however you may find a specific strategy that works the best (I know I haven’t found this yet!) and although you have dice rolls and the Theron Invaders for randomness, you could potentially use the same strategy each game. For me I enjoy the game enough that if I lose, I will just re-set it up and play again. You can do this easily as the game is quick to set up. Still, overall I would say replayability in this game is more on from the competitive side, not the co-op or solo game.

Medium, Gamer

With the sheer amount of options for players to choose during their turn, I place this game in more of the gamer category, with the weight being around Medium. If you make a wrong move in the solo or co-op game you either need to get very lucky or you will simply lose in the next round or two. Since money is so important in this game, if you are not able to export goods each round you will find that you cannot eliminate the damage tokens that turn into disintegration tokens once the stack of damage tokens runs out. The dice pairing is simple to understand, yet understanding what the best options are for you and the team (if playing co-op) makes me think that gamers will enjoy this the most.







If you had asked me if I liked this game after 2 plays, I would have said no. Heck I even tried selling it at one point. Now though, after getting through more plays, I have found that I really like the puzzle-y nature of the solo or co-op game. I also appreciate that the game isn’t too long, and you know pretty quickly if you are going to fail or not. The rules for solo/co-op could use some work, and maybe at some point the designer will be willing to come up with new ones. If so I will be all for it! (Need any help? )

For me, this game is a keeper because of this:

Escalation
Difficulty
Theme
Fun Factor
Components/Art


If you are a gamer looking for a challenge and a resource management/worker placement game with dice pairing, this may be the game for you!



If you want to check my other reviews, I have a geeklist.



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As I mentioned in your video post:

Quote:

Regarding the Therion Marauder attacks, you were correct that each spot on the card is affected. The rules mention "place a red Damage token on each of the affected Stations." A "Station" is any spot you can place a worker, so you were correct about the Solar Array as well, since there is only one spot to place there.

When you roll doubles, the benefit is to move the token on the Neutronium Track back one space as you explained. It's not specifically mentioned in the cooperative rules, but the rule that the two mining dice cannot match still applies. With the current rules, you would move the token back *and* re-roll one of the dice until they are different. That said, I like the idea of getting one benefit or the other and not both. By getting both benefits, it increases the luck factor and I'd like to minimize that when possible.


Here are some ideas I've been working on for the revised cooperative version. The main rules apply, but with these changes to allow for more a more consistent experience with different player counts:


Setup – Randomly select a player to take the Leader token. Each player draws one Therion Marauder card. If "Calm Before The Storm" is drawn, set it aside and draw a new card. In turn order, each player then places one Damage token on ONE of the stations listed on their card to "seed" the board with damage. The Damage tokens placed will equal the number of players. Shuffle the cards back into the Therion Marauder deck.

The difficulty level is determined by the starting Credits for each player:

Cakewalk $12
Easy $10
Normal $7
Hard $5
Very Hard $3
Extreme $0

Turn sequence – Instead of taking turns placing one Crewmember at a time, a player will take their entire turn before passing the Leader token.

Phase 1: On your turn, roll the two Standard (clear) Mining dice. If doubles are rolled, you have three options: A. Re-roll one die until the results do not match. B. Reveal the Therion Marauder card *before placing your Crewmembers instead of after. C. Move the Disintegration token backward one space on the Neutronium Track. (If on the $1 space, it cannot move backward.)

Phase 2: As the Leader, place all of your available Crewmembers. Only one player will have Crewmembers on the board at one time so the Delegate station is not used. The Leader stationed may be used to acquire Neutronium. This is taken immediately, unlike other spots, which are resolved during Phase 5.

Phase 3: Roll the Neutronium die. Any time the Neutronium die is rolled or if Neutronium is spent to defend against an attack, the Neutronium track advances by one space. This means that the track will advance at least once per turn, even if the "Calm Before the Storm" card is drawn because the Neutronium track is directly linked to the Neutronium die, and not to the Therion Marauder cards.

Phase 4: Draw and resolve the top card on the Therion Marauder deck. Advance the Neutronium Track by one unless the card drawn is "Calm Before The Storm." If you have a Crewmember on a station that is attacked, you may spend a Neutronium (other resources may not be used as a bribe) to fend off the entire attack (all stations on the card). If you do, return your Neutronuim Token to the board and advance the Neutronium Track one more space (two total).

If you are unable to or choose not to defend against the attack, each station on the card receives one Damage token. Any Crewmembers on those stations must flee.

If you encounter a situation where you run out of Damage tokens and need to place Disintegration tokens, the order of placement may matter. The active player determines the order in which the tokens are placed. i.e. - which stations are permanently lost from Disintegration and which ones may still be repaired.
Note: A station may have more than one Damage token, but may only have one Disintegration token. When a Disintegration token is placed on a station, any Damage tokens are returned to the pool. If a Station with a Disintegration token is attacked again, simply ignore that specific attack.

Phase 5: Resolve Crewmembers as normal. Roll your die (dice) and resolve any Crewmembers as desired. Unless a Crewmember is on the Solar Array, it must return to your Crew quarters whether it is resolved or not. Note: The number of dice you roll will depend on the number of Credits you have at the START of your turn. Because of this, you may spend Credits during your placement phase (to repair damaged Stations) and fall below the previous threshold without penalty. However, you will need to re-evaluate the number of dice to use at the start of each turn because if you start below a threshold, you may need to return a previously owned die.

Phase 6: Once your turn is completed, pass the Leader token to the next player.

Between player turns, any player may hire a "Shuttle" service to transfer or receive resources from one player to another. To do this, 1 credit must be paid for each resource transported. Any player may pay this cost, but the recipient must have available cargo space to hold the resource.

Export – When exporting Metal (Iron, Cobalt, or Platinum) resources, the associated Credits are collected by the player who exported them and the resource token is added to the Minimum Export section of the Neutronium Crisis board. When exporting Neutronium, collect one credit and return the Neutronium token to the Neutronium pool on the board. When exporting Solar Energy, you may either collect 3 credits OR forfeit the income and instead move the Disintegration Token back one space on the Neutronium Track. In either case, the Solar Energy token is returned to the Solar Array on the board.

Solar Array – Unlike other stations, it's possible for players to have Crewmembers remain on the Solar Array from turn to turn. When the Solar Array is attacked, any players with Crewmembers there may use a Neutronium to repel the attack. Only one Neutronium is required to protect everyone at the Solar Array. If the attack is not repelled, any Crewmember tokens there are moved backward one space and if a Crewmember is on the starting space, it is returned to the owner. To repair the Solar Array, players may place a Crewmember on the starting space there (on their turn) and pay the repair cost. Or, if a player already has a Crewmember there, they may simply pay the repair cost on their turn (during their placement phase) to remove the damage token. While the Solar Array is damaged, players may not advance or collect any Solar tokens. While the Solar Array is damaged players may decide to return their Crewmembers on a later turn. i.e. - if there is no hope of repairing it or if the Crewmember is needed elsewhere. This return action may be done during the placement or resolution phase of that player's turn.

The Corporate Sponsor cards are not used with the cooperative variant. However, the Research cards may be used by removing these cards that do not apply:

Shuttle Link Module
Mineral Investments
Subspace Tunnel
Gear Specialization Modules
Advanced Gravity Boots
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AWESOME!! I am going to have to try this out in the next week or two and will report back how it worked for me. I really appreciate all the time you spent making this variant, it looks super cool!
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Lightningbolt1312 wrote:
AWESOME!! I am going to have to try this out in the next week or two and will report back how it worked for me. I really appreciate all the time you spent making this variant, it looks super cool!


Thanks very much for checking it out! I've been working on some revisions for a while now and your review inspired me to try another approach. So far, it has been working well with different player counts and with 2-3 players we can finish a game in a less than 30 minutes. Any feedback you can provide would be greatly appreciated. I think this version is much better than the original and I've even been enjoying it more than the standard competitive version. That said, there is always room for improvement and I'd love to see it polish up a bit further if possible.

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meskue wrote:
Lightningbolt1312 wrote:
AWESOME!! I am going to have to try this out in the next week or two and will report back how it worked for me. I really appreciate all the time you spent making this variant, it looks super cool!


Thanks very much for checking it out! I've been working on some revisions for a while now and your review inspired me to try another approach. So far, it has been working well with different player counts and with 2-3 players we can finish a game in a less than 30 minutes. Any feedback you can provide would be greatly appreciated. I think this version is much better than the original and I've even been enjoying it more than the standard competitive version. That said, there is always room for improvement and I'd love to see it polish up a bit further if possible.



Curious if these updated rules are with the Tabletop Sim mod? Thinking about purchasing it.
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salphons wrote:


Curious if these updated rules are with the Tabletop Sim mod? Thinking about purchasing it.


These changes don't affect the components so it could certainly work. The main thing you'd need to keep in mind though is that most of the rules text on the Neutronium Track are no longer be accurate. As long as you replace that information with the updated rules, it is compatible. To test the updated cooperative rules, we've been using the physical game, which is the same as what is in digital form.
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