Recommend
7 
 Thumb up
 Hide
14 Posts

Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain» Forums » General

Subject: Solo Expereince rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Alex
Canada
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
Well this game looks intriguing. What could I expect from a solo experience? I really don't know much about the system, except for some reading I just did. What are these games like to learn? What is the thematic feel like? What's the general objective and how do you go about achieving it?

Thanks!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott D
United States
Virginia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I’m going to give you advice that I did not personally follow. I would not recommend starting your solo COIN experience with this game. The designers notes pretty much admit that the bots are more complicated than other games in the series. Additionally, the game itself is close to the most complex in the series (from what I can tell so far). I started with Fire in the Lake (perhaps the most complex) because it was the only one in print at the time, but it was a real challenge, and, if I’d have had options, I would’ve picked something simpler.

There is a caveat though. The Pendragon bots follow a new format that did not begin in earnest until Falling Sky. While the “go-to” is usually Cuba Libre for its simplicity, I’m not sure learning that game and its bots while be directly helpful here due to the different format of the charts and other differences. My advice would be this:

1. If you are interested in ancients, get Falling Sky. The bots at least use a similar enough format, and you will still be playing an ancients game involving the Romans in what is now Western Europe. It’s also not very complex relatively-speaking and is four players.

2. If you want the easiest game to pick up while learning about the style of bots in Pendragon, get Colonial Twilight. It’s simple, the bot format is nearly identical to Pendragon, and the game plays quickly. The drawback is that the game is only for two players (so not a direct parallel to Pendragon’s experience), and the bot is limited to playing as only one of the sides in the shortest scenario. I’ve tried the bot for the longer scenarios and can readily say the best experience is with the short scenario.

3. If you aren’t afraid of jumping in the middle of the pool, get A Distant Plain (about Afghanistan) and find the alternate bots printed in one of the c3i magazines. They are going to give you the closest experience to Pendragon’s bots from what I can tell at a lower complexity level (though not a low complexity level).

Having typed all of this, I’ve concluded you probably should just get a Pendragon if it interests you and be patient as you learn the bots. It may be a difficult slog at first if you are new to COIN, but, if you are interested specifically in Pendragon, you can power through.

To your other questions, I’d say the general feel is similar enough to the experience of playing with others, except you lose the negotiation aspect. COIN is great for solo, and certainly it is more satisfying than the modifications you have to make to play the CDGs solitaire (though some of those are fun too). I find my best experience is when I only look at the bot flowcharts when implementing the bots’ turns. That keeps me from gaming the system and leaves the bots’ moves as a bit of a surprise.
22 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Troy Creamer
United States
Arlington Heights
Illinois
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
i think overall Scott nailed it. My one add would be for your first game or two, another option would be to not use the bots and just play all four factions to get a feel for the game without the bot complexity.
13 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alex
Canada
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
Interesting, thanks a lot. Really appreciate the feedback.

So just in terms of playing Pendragon (and I'm almost equally interested in Falling Sky) what is the gameplay like?

2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Noakes
United Kingdom
Redhill
Surrey
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Just to support what Scott said above, my experience with COIN was very similar: Fire in the Lake was my first (as it was the only one available), and the first attempt at playing against three bots was... challenging. I persevered and finished the game, my Americans losing to the NVA; it felt like a remarkable experience and told a great story; and it took me about eight hours. Thinking I'd probably rarely if ever find the time and will to have another go, I concluded FitL was too complicated, and sold it.

However, soon after I picked up Falling Sky (due to theme), and love it. It just felt far more intuitive to play, and though there were a couple of challenges with the bots, their flowcharts mostly parse easily enough and it's become one of my favourite solo games. Colonial Twilight is also wonderful.

I'm on the fence with Pendragon because of both cost and complexity--I love the theme but worry that all the beautiful thematic touches might place it just beyond my complexity comfort zone. But I also fancy that familiarity with Falling Sky will hopefully make the game more accessible. I'm pretty sure, though, that if Pendragon was my first experience with COIN it'd end up going the same way that FitL did...
9 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matt Crawford
United States
Pacifica
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Agree mostly with Scott's reply. The only things I would mention, according to my own opinion, is:

1. I don't find the format of the bot flowcharts to be much different from game to game. So I think whatever game interests you the most would be the place to start.

2. I definitely would go for Falling Sky over Pendragon for your first COIN game. The game is a touch simpler overall, and the bots are really excellent.

3. I would not recommend A Distant Plain and the variant bots from C3i as your first entry. The game itself is harder to grok than the others in the series, and the bots more cumbersome to use (again, in my experience).

Overall, I can't recommend the COIN solo experience enough. It's my favorite solo experience out of almost anything I've played, wargame or Euro. I really love how each game is an asymmetric multiplayer experience, and each bot feels different. It's not just you against the machine.

5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Holman
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
One point about solitaire COIN and the bots:

Unlike most CDG's, COIN doesn't have hidden information, so playing in a traditional "both [four, here] sides" wargame solitaire style really doesn't cost you anything.

In fact, I recommend it as a way of learning the game before adding the complexity of the flowcharts to the experience. I've had fun playing FITL and LoD both ways: with the full bot rules and running each faction in sequence.
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott D
United States
Virginia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
gatchaman wrote:
Agree mostly with Scott's reply. The only things I would mention, according to my own opinion, is:

1. I don't find the format of the bot flowcharts to be much different from game to game. So I think whatever game interests you the most would be the place to start.

2. I definitely would go for Falling Sky over Pendragon for your first COIN game. The game is a touch simpler overall, and the bots are really excellent.

3. I would not recommend A Distant Plain and the variant bots from C3i as your first entry. The game itself is harder to grok than the others in the series, and the bots more cumbersome to use (again, in my experience).

Overall, I can't recommend the COIN solo experience enough. It's my favorite solo experience out of almost anything I've played, wargame or Euro. I really love how each game is an asymmetric multiplayer experience, and each bot feels different. It's not just you against the machine.


To offer a few alternative views here:

1. The way that the bots determine using the Event or not are significantly different in Falling Sky and later games than in, say, Cuba Libre where playing the Event is often the “default” action. In this sense, the bots are indeed a change. Maybe not a big change, but the bot in Colonial Twilight, for instance, is undeniably closer in format to those in Pendragon than are the bots in Cuba Libre or something.

2. I’m admittedly in a minority, but I think Falling Sky is not exactly the “newbie-friendly” experience people claim. The Battle rules are more complicated than anything in A Distant Plain, some of the options with negotiating Supply Lines are complex, you must learn to implement the non-player Germans, and there are pesky “leader” rules. Sure, there are no Lines of Communication, but the game is not even close to a Cuba Libre level of simplicity. The bots are especially tough to implement as you have to calculate potential battle results in advance and such. Honestly, I had an easier time learning A Distant Plain. YMMV.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alex
Canada
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
So what makes these games fun? How do the mechanics work? How do the different faction's go about achieving their goal?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sam Middleton
United States
Wise
Virginia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ACBez wrote:
So what makes these games fun? How do the mechanics work? How do the different faction's go about achieving their goal?


So at it's simplest base - the COIN system is a card driven war game. Each card gives some information - an initiative 'track' for the factions of the game and then an event which sometimes is broke into two parts. Each faction gets base abilities and then some special abilities and each have different goals for victory. The maps vary in size depending on the game and some factions, again depending on the game, can sort of move differently around the map. That is the simplest explanation for COIN, in my opinion. Someone might be able to sum it up better than I can.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Juan Valdez
msg tools
ACBez wrote:
So what makes these games fun? How do the mechanics work? How do the different faction's go about achieving their goal?


"Fun" is very much in the eye of the beholder, but here's a few of my reasons:

1. The rules are not that complex, but developing a winning strategy requires both long range planning and the ability to recognize and exploit immediate surprises.

2. At least for Fire in the Lake, the cards provide an amazing historical backdrop for every single event. Many of the events reference battles for which I have entire other wargames: SEALORDS, Silver Bayonet, Long Tan, etc.

3. Game production is top flight, the games are as physically pleasant to to play as any other games I own.

4. Most of the COIN designers check in here at BGG at least occasionally. Most (if not all) the COIN designers regularly play their own games. That's pretty cool in my book.

As far as mechanics and achieving factional goals, I don't know how to explain.
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
chuck reaume
United States
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
One of my favorite aspects of the COIN series is the variation in every game caused by the motivations and strategies of each faction. You’re not going to play the Taliban (A Distant Plain) the same way you’d play the FARC (Andean Abyss)even though mechanically your options are very similar. And with the latest entries to the system (Liberty or Death, Falling Sky, Pendragon and, to some extent, Colonial Twilight), the differences become exponentially unique.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Dillenbeck
United States
Deerfield
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I'm working on a tutorial video but it was delayed due to my wife wanting to play Pandemic: Rising Tide (fun, but we won with only half the deck - time to up the difficulty again; something we never did with Pandemic or its expansions so quickly). I do have an unboxing video that is listed in the video section and a really long overview video that I didn't post here as I'm not really happy with how it turned out (if anyone watches it and thinks I should submit it to the video section, let me know and I will). Not sure if either of those will help you out.

EDIT 7:45 AM GMT Sunday, December 24, 2017
I have added a detailed index in the description of my detailed overview video rather than make an new tutorial & submitted it to the video section. Thanks to those who took time to watch it so far, I hope it helped. I hope everyone has a happy holiday season while invading Britain! devil
END EDIT

Anyway, on to your questions...

ACBez wrote:
Well this game looks intriguing. What could I expect from a solo experience? I really don't know much about the system, except for some reading I just did. What are these games like to learn? What is the thematic feel like? What's the general objective and how do you go about achieving it?

Thanks!
ACBez wrote:
Interesting, thanks a lot. Really appreciate the feedback.

So just in terms of playing Pendragon (and I'm almost equally interested in Falling Sky) what is the gameplay like?
ACBez wrote:
So what makes these games fun? How do the mechanics work? How do the different faction's go about achieving their goal?


Solo Play

What can you expect from COIN series in general for solo play? Three possibilities: you play all factions to the best of your abilities, you play only one or two factions against the procedural AI and will spend a lot of time implementing moves (and when you are a beginner, it will be a lot of time and you'll make tons of mistakes), or you'll play all factions but pick on or a team to focus on and then use the procedural AI to help inform you. Using the procedural AI will change the flow of the game a bit. The AI doesn't make as intelligent decisions, so it gets extra actions when a player would normally be limited.

For Pendragon's AI specifically, it is the longest. The multiplayer rules are 19.5 pages long, and then in this game the procedural AI section is 13.5 pages long - so that's 33 pages to read through!

Quick Rules Overview

What are the COIN games like? At their core, they aren't too bad. You have a common deck; the top of the discard pile is the active card, the top of the draw pile is revealed so players can plan ahead. The deck is constructed like Pandemic, a stack of cards with a victory round initiating card mixed in somewhere. Along the top of the event cards are icons to determine which players get the opportunity to act, and they are read left to right.

On the board is a 'Sequence of Play' box and all players have a counter that start in the eligible (to play) box. The first player chooses what they want to do, then the second player to go has their choice limited based on what the first player did; alternatively a player can pass to gain resources instead of acting. They can:

1. Choose to use the active event card. There are often 2 sets of text, shaded and unshaded that favor one pair of factions over the other pair; players execute their choice of text options on the card. Some cards are "momentum", giving players an ability until the next victory card; some cards are "capabilities", giving players an ability until the game ends. (The following player will get to execute one command with one feat, as per #2.)
2. Execute one Command with one Feat/Special Action. Each player has a set of commands and feats/special abilities that they can execute in the number of spaces given in the rules. These often cost resources to do, and they allow a player to basically add pieces to the board, move pieces around the board, remove enemy pieces from the board, and gain resources or any special goal "currencies" (for example, a faction like the Dux in Pendragon need to gain 'Prestige' in battle to help them win). Feats/Special Actions are often more tailored to the faction to make them more thematic (for example, in Pendragon the Scotti can Entreat and convert the Civitates player's pieces into Scotti Pieces while the Saxon can Ravage and quickly plunder the region). (The second player may choose to use the event card as per #1 or execute one limited command - a command that is restricted to a single territory on the board.)
3. Execute one Command. This is as #2, but without executing a Feat/Special Action. (The second player can only execute a limited command, a command limited to a single territory on the board.)

After two players have acted or one player acted and the rest of the eligible players have passed, the round ends. Those that acted have their markers put in an ineligible box, and those in the ineligible box or that had passed are moved to the eligible box. Move the top card of the draw pile onto the discard pile, reveal the next card.

In Pendragon, if the revealed card on the draw deck is an victory round initiation card, swap it with the card on top of the discard pile and immediately go through a victory round. A victory round has two aspects to it. First, some resetting happens (players get resources, move pieces on the board, and some other details I won't go into that vary by game), then you check to see if any player(s) won; if two or more won, use the scoring system to determine the winner with the highest points. If it is the last victory round, the game still ends. Use a system for scoring to determine the winner. Otherwise, do a little more resetting and continue playing the game as above.

I can't really go into more. Each game has different factions with different goals - and in Pendragon there are two faction who have goals that change based on what happened in the game! Also, each faction has a different set of pieces that they can use with different behaviors; and each of the commands and feats work slightly to drastically differently. If you really want to see some of these details, use the link to my overview video.

Game Play - Falling Sky


Falling Sky has five factions: Rome and the leader figure Caesar trying to keep the Gallic tribes subjugated and allied with either no one or Rome (Caesar has to deal with a Roman Senate support track back home that influences what types of Legions he can muster, and Auxilia supplement his forces and act as scouts plus the capability of building Forts in the countryside); The Belgae and Ambiorix who want to control territory and have allied tribes (they have the ability to call upon their Germanic allies); The Arverni and Vercingetorix who want allies and to drive the legions out of Gaul (they use a slash-and-burn tactic to help deprive the Romans of resources, and they can amass many warbands and build mighty citadels); the Aedui who are Roman allies who want to have the most allies of any faction and amass wealth through trade (they use the ability to convert enemy pieces to their pieces, and work closely with Caesar to gain more beneficial trade); and the Germanic Tribes are AI players only that can be sometimes manipulated to help (often helping the Belgic tribes).

Combat is low complexity, but different than other COIN games. Most COIN games have irregular troops with an embossed and plain face on their wooden pieces - when flipped down they are "inactive" and cannot be attacked their foes have to use actions to find them. In this game, inactive means the forces can retreat to the same space instead of retreating to a neighboring space or that they can be used for certain commands & special activities.

However, combat really isn't the focus. Yes, Rome needs to destroy allies and the Arverni need to destroy legions (or drive them off by having Caesar lose support back in the Senate) - but the Aedui don't really have pieces to fight with, and the Belgae want allies and control to establish their kindgom. Fighting will happen, but it isn't the sole focus. This game can appeal to non-wargamers who don't mind some battle/conflict and wargamers who do't mind not exclusively fighting. The half sized board is deceptive as there are 4 more boards for holding player pieces (so it is really an 8 section board) and there are a full number of wooden pieces.

This is probably the second easiest game to learn, but the Germanic player adds a little bit of complexity as does dealing with all the pieces. It is my second favorite of the series that I played (I have yet to play Pendragon and Andean Abyss).

Game Play - Pendragon


Pendragon has four factions: The Civitates or roman Briton aristocracy that wouldn't mind ruling (and thus they focus on trade and controlling areas on the board); the Dux or post-Roman armies in the region who have changing goals (they are concerned with military dominance, prestige, and the prosperity of the regions for most of the game; but when the Roman Empire fragments they become warlords concerned with prestige and controlling regions); the Saxons who are the Anglos, Saxons, and Jutes that invade have changing goals (they always want to establish control of a territory in this new region, but in the early and mid game they can win by establishing some settlements and gaining lots of renown through plundering the region); and the Scotti who represent the Irish and Picts who want to settle the region and gain lots of plunder.

This game is very much more of a wargame than the others, and battle is complicated. When fighting you need to see if you can ambush or evade; then you go through a few steps of resolving an open field battle; next if the invading armies drive all the enemies from the field they move on to assaulting the strongholds of the region; and finally, they may choose to besiege strongholds. It is still deterministic, there are no "inactive" irregular pieces to worry about, and it is probably the most complicated battle system to resolve in the entire series.

However, what makes it a wargame is how easy it is to initiate a battle. In many COIN games you must first move to an area on one turn, then initiate a battle on another; in Pendragon all but the Civitates player has two actions that can start a battle, and one of them involves moving in pieces and starting a fight.

The other major way Pendragon differs is by the feeling of decay. The game starts with a strong Dux and Civitates player who work together and share resources for spending on Commands and control over an area, and all the regions on the map have prosperous populations. The invaders then come into the land, the backing from the Roman Empire slips as the land goes from Roman Rule to Autonomy and then Fragmentation. Two players struggle to hold on to what they can as the other two players wear them down, and everything feeds into this sense of decay and growing chaos.

Of course, Pendragon has a very different time scale. It has 6 epochs that cover the late 4th century and most of the 5th century, while Falling Sky and most other COIN titles only cover a few years in a full length game.

The Fun


For me, the fun is in the asymmetric play, the tightness of play, the tempting distractions that make you loose sight of your goals ("keep your eye on the prize" should be advice given to every new player), and the pleasure of watching the situation unfold (much like a person watches a documentary, its like seeing an alternate history unfold).

One key here is the tightness of play, which is something I'd use to describe Agricola or many other euros/worker placement games. You activate at most half the rounds in a game, and often times a standard game length might be 48-ish cards. At best you're usually hoping to complete a victory and hold on to it until the next victory round - and that is tough to do in 24 turns at most (with maybe 4-8 turns to act between victory rounds). In a way, it is also like Five Tribes; you'll see all these pieces on the board with all these possibilities, and you're looking for the one that is optimal.

Ultimately, it is the simulation that keeps me coming back. Looking at the event cards, opening up the playbook and reading the history of them, and seeing how the game changes over time. In Fire in the Lake, does the NVA infiltrate and take over the VC to win? In Liberty or Death, do the British manage to score a crushing defeat against Washington and thus sway the population in favor of the Empire? In Falling Sky does Ambiorix carve out a kingdom in the North - or do the Germans they invited in turn on them? It is the fact that I am interested in the narrative that the changes in the game help me create that keeps me buying and playing these titles - and I look forward to the conflicts in India and the war for Finnish independence also. These are the true source of fun for this and almost any series of games that have drawn me in.

--------------

I don't know if that helped at all, but I already struggle to be concise and the COIN series has a lot of rich depth in it. Your questions really are going beyond a quick post of 2 paragraphs with 3 short sentences each - and I only skimmed the surface of all the games.

Anyway, I'm going to sit here and think about how to structure my tutorial video, as your post has inspired me to try to get it done in the next 24-48 hours. Happy Gaming!
28 
 Thumb up
8.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Noakes
United Kingdom
Redhill
Surrey
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ACBez wrote:
So what makes these games fun? How do the mechanics work? How do the different faction's go about achieving their goal?


The bots--at least the bots in Falling Sky--are very focused on achieving their own goals. This sometimes works to their detriment as they can't gang up on an obvious leader in the way human opponents do. (With some nuances: the Aedui, the loose ally of the Romans, as a bot provide resources and supply lines to the Romans... up until the Romans are near victory; then they stop helping and may attack.)

Part of the fun of COIN--and the challenge of learning and teaching the game--is the asymmetry that comes from each faction playing differently. Each faction will have four core actions they can take, and three "special" actions that are occasionally available. For example, in Falling Sky the Romans can Recruit, March, Seize and Battle; special actions include Build, Scout and Besiege. Gallic factions share identical core actions but are differentiated by their special actions. Victory conditions vary between factions as well. Again in FS, the Aedui want to have more tribes on the map than anyone else; the Belgae need to get tribes onto the map, but also hold territory.

There's tension in how you resolve each Event card: taking an advantageous event leaves you open to a stronger retaliation by the next player/bot to play, as they get a full action accompanied by a special action. Do you take a limited action to deny them the Event? Do you pass to remain eligible for the next event? This core mechanic for the system is fantastic. However, in the four-player games (all COINs other than Colonial Twilight and the upcoming Finnish one), it also means players have a limited number of turn: roughly every second card, which means in a medium-length scenario you may only get, say, 20 turns or so.

What I like about COIN as a solo game is that the bots provide a solid opponent whilst maintain the narrative the game provides. (And it's strangely engaging to work through the flowcharts and watch the bots destroy your plans.) It's also the only way I've found to get the game to the table! I've found a single opponent for Colonial Twilight, but finding three players comfortable with the length and relative complexity of a COIN game hasn't happened (yet). Which is a pity, because what the solo and two-player games can't offer is the tension promised by the forced collusion of aligned factions still working towards individual victory.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.