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Bios: Megafauna (Second Edition)» Forums » Rules

Subject: Bios Megafauna 2 Solo? rss

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David Griffin
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Yes, I know there is a solo mode. However, upon my first reading of the manual (and reading the playthrough here on BGG and watching the one playthrough I found on YouTube), I'm struck by the huge number of additional rules required to play the solo game.

I like it when the game's solo mode prepares you to play the multiplayer game -- that is, I like it when the rules for the two modes of play are substantially similar. This game is pretty complex (not a surprise of course) and adding a bunch of new complexities on top of that strikes me as a problem. In High Frontier, the solo mode was not there to help you learn the game and doing it that way was murderously difficult. I didn't feel that way with Bios Genesis 2.

So I'm trying to figure out how to approach my initial games. I had intended to bring it to our local con to teach the multiplayer game, but now I'm having my doubts since if I go with the solo mode, it is so different from the main game I will not be able to teach the standard game. I'm think I'll have to play the normal game 2 players just so I see the actual ruleset I intend to play multiplayer?

What do you all think?

Note: I like the idea of Mars and Venus. I even like them as valid alternate gameplay mode. I just think maybe for solo the STANDARD solo mode might be something more like 2 player standard game with the automated plant rules? Not sure that will work, but it's another option.
 
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Fabian
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Yeah, I'd play it as a 2 player game solo for pretty much the reasons listed. It works well that way. Make sure to include the plant player in your solo play as they will play differently from the others. I don't think there's a point in automating anything, just play two handed if you want to learn the game.
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Tom Kassel
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I've been playing a four position game solo and it works fine. Lots of icon confusion in the first few turns but it's getting clearer.

It is a pretty vicious game. Make sure your group is happy with loadsa death, sometimes random, sometimes targeted.
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David Griffin
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Zlarp wrote:
Yeah, I'd play it as a 2 player game solo for pretty much the reasons listed. It works well that way. Make sure to include the plant player in your solo play as they will play differently from the others. I don't think there's a point in automating anything, just play two handed if you want to learn the game.


The "automated" plant rules aren't really that automated. They just seem to be guidelines for plant behavior (which I'm not fond of -- it's how Dungeon Saga's solo mode works). I could use those rules to guide choices a bit though maybe.

I feel like the game needs an automa to not PLAY the game, but mimic the behavioral outcomes (of plants probably). The automa would move disks, accumulate biomes, etc. Maybe would be harder than I'm thinking. I can't even say the solo mode didn't get much thought here. Clearly it got a HUGE amount of thought. But like High Frontier, it's not a mode designed to carry the game. It's a separate mode for experienced players of the multiplayer game. Phil, if you're listening, think about solo mode as a mode your players may play INSTEAD of the 2 player game, maybe for their entire ownership of the game. Make it fun, a good game for the starting player, and as much like the 2 player game as you can.

Bios Genesis 2nd ed. isn't too far from this.
 
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Rich James
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There are actually two ways to play the game as multiplayer: Tooth & Claw and Achterbahn. Have you decided which game type you hope to teach your gaming group?

For solo, I find it pretty straightforward to play multihanded, as Fabian suggested. It gets a bit complex trying to play 4 player multihanded (although that is all I have been doing). You could easily do 2 player. I think even 3 player would be pretty manageable. The complexity increase comes from having to make decisions in light of what 2 or 3 other players might do. This style of solo play works well for me for learning the rules and some basic strategies.
 
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David Arlington
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Although there is an official solo mode, I can already tell the majority of my solo play is going to be the regular full achterbahn game with me playing multiple sides. All information is open and there is no bidding so it's really easy to do.

My first attempt was animal versus plant because they play so different, but next may be one plant versus two animals so animal has some competition for top row mutations.

My first solo attempt has been a blast with some wild twists and turns.

Dave
 
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David Griffin
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Yes, I guess I will play an animal against the plants as prep for trying to teach a “normal” achterbahn game. Not sure I can generate the necesary expertise by Friday though. It’s tough to teach a game you haven’t actually played a few times well and it’s often harder to learn it on the fly sitting at the table, though I have done this once or twice at a con. One would, of course, be insane to attempt this with any game with Phil Eklund on the cover. Attempting to do so could be grounds for being confined to an institution for the criminally stupid.

But as an “acceptable” solo mode to include in a game, it’s a little like what we wargamers used to do when solo modes were mostly unheard of. You played both sides in a schizophrenic way, trying to do what each side would do. This often led to some awareness and learning of the subject matter (say WWI in the AH 1914 game) but it was not a satisfying solo experience (at least not by current standards). It wasn’t something I did a lot or multiple times in a single game.

As time has passed, the standard of certain things have changed. We expect better components these days (I find the components of this game quite nice) and we tend to expect a game to have some kind of solo mode ... well actually I think you’d say that lack of a solo mode has become a sufficient barrier to purchase by gamers that designers have started to take notice. I’m sure Captain Sonar is a great game, but I’m rarely in a room with enough gamers to make it viable. I can always play a good solo game.
 
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Rich James
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carbon_dragon wrote:
But as an “acceptable” solo mode to include in a game, it’s a little like what we wargamers used to do when solo modes were mostly unheard of. You played both sides in a schizophrenic way, trying to do what each side would do. This often led to some awareness and learning of the subject matter (say WWI in the AH 1914 game) but it was not a satisfying solo experience (at least not by current standards). It wasn’t something I did a lot or multiple times in a single game.

I agree that the multihand style of solo playing is a bit schizophrenic. But Bios Megafauna 2 does include solo game rules, so you have that as an actual game that is offered.

But you initially were asking about a solo mode that would help with preparing to teach other gamers in multiplayer, right? Given that the solo game doesn't prepare you well for multiplayer (you reported this, I haven't tried it myself yet), you at least do have the multihand approach as a way to learn the rules and procedures before that face-to-face experience.

It would be great if this game had some kind of bot so that the solo play felt a lot like multiplayer, I get that. But I can't count it against the game that it doesn't have that. It does have a solo game, just not that solo game.

Also, I don't agree that the expectations of gamers, in general, is that a game include a solo mode. Good games I have bought in the past few years don't have solo modes: Guns of Gettysburg, Table Battles, For Ex, Twilight Struggle, The US Civil War for example. Sierra Madre games at least include a solo mode, typically.
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andrew lauzi
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I recommend you the "Tooth and Claw" decaffeineted version firstly as an appetizzer, to learn how to manage the mutation market and the hervibore/carnivore contests.
Playing half of the turns (5) of this version should be enough as an exercise ( bit boring😦😫).
Then you can try the full game with 3 colors to clarify the bunch of little doubts that will arise you.
Finally the best ways to play is with 4 colors and trying to be competitive. its easy and fun.
At the end of the the second full solo game you should be prepared to teach the rules to others and and to explain its inner workings.
(I dont tried the "official" solo modes yet.)
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Martin
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I've played two "official" solo games - one on campaign game linked from Genesis and one stand alone on Mars. Both have been fun and worked well, although I felt the campaign game was a bit easy with all the extra mutations I got at start.

Definitely play the game using a two or three player setup and some good old cognitive dissonance to teach yourself. Works great and is actually quite fun!

A couple of weeks ago I taught it fresh to two guys at the local board game day and all in all it took three hours including a lengthy rules explanation. After turn two it rolled on pretty quickly.

My long history with Phil's games of course makes me biased, but I still think this is one of his most approachable and easily taught games. As long as you take care of the plants (and Medea) the rest should fall into place quickly.
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Samuel Argento
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I was Megafauna 2 playtester, I upload a variant of AI that was proposed but finally not used (although I used it and I liked the result), if you find it useful.

https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/158974/bios-megafauna-ia-...
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David Griffin
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The Scythe automa has an interesting tactic of not trying to play the game, but just try to mimic the level of reward and interaction. Maybe that would be a tactic worth thinking about.
 
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Samuel Argento
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andrewdoull wrote:
We experimented with a number of AI players: Samuel's approach as well as a non-table based AI which used unborn cripples to mark which cards to buy based on what events endanger the species they belong to.

The big problem with trying to emulate the multiplayer game in solitaire is the same issue that the Medea card solves. The achterbahn engine has too many points where the rules get overly complicated when we tried to make a deterministic way of resolving them. Having a player choose how to resolve liberation of disks simplifies things a lot.


We discussed this already during the testing phase, I showed this little AI in case anyone wants to try a variant (and give their opinions)

Another good idea I've seen in other games is to use an AI bot with a deck of cards.
 
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Samuel Argento
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andrewdoull wrote:

I think your rules work well. Phil just ended up deciding on a different approach for the official solo game.


Great news, I look forward to this approach!!!
 
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David Griffin
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I am usually in the position of buying a new game and learning it so I can teach it to others. Because that is true, I typically prefer that the solo mode reflect, as much as possible, the “standard” game. Obviously it won’t be identical, but someone playing the solo mode should be able to “train” for playing the game multi-player.

When this is not the case, either I have to play multi-handed to learn the game (as is the case this time) or there is stuff that I’m going to run into on my first game with another player. Even games like Terraforming Mars omit the awards and milestones and thus the first time I played that, I had to puzzle out the rules while trying to teach it.

Bios Genesis 2nd ed has what looks like a decent introductory mode and a decent solo mode (though they omit a mode for the player who is playing alone and also for the first time which I had to kind of come up with on the fly). Even so, the modes work well. The problem there is the manual which is so full of technical jargon that it might as well be written in ancient Egyptian. Once you learn the game (I watched the Grey Gamer youTube videos) the manual is pretty good.

High Frontier has no real intro mode (there is a basic game, but I’m not certain I’d call that an intro level) and several solitaire modes which are really harder than the actual game (because they’re designed as a way for experienced players who already know the game to spend some time with a nice challenge when they can’t find other players). Me, I learned the game playing those modes and it was HARD. To be fair, the game is NOT advertised as a solo game.

The Megafauna 2 book is well done I think and accessible for a new player without a PhD. It IS a complex game of course. It has an introductory mode (which I haven’t played yet due to my need to learn the basic game rules before Thursday) and it has a couple of different solo modes, but as I indicate above, they layer on a lot of alternate rules to the basic game (which they don’t seem to resemble much) and the descriptions of the modes in the game might be missing some needed guidance (perhaps because here too they are not designed as primary ways to play the game, but interesting stuff for players to do after they have played the REAL game). I’ve got it on the table and I’m ready to try to keep life going on Mars.

As someone who plays quite a LOT of solo games (because I have too few other players to play with), I’m gratified by the growing attention I see paid to the solo modes of games, either as the primary mode (Nemo’s War 2nd ed) or as a well thought out solo mode (Scythe) where the game you’re paying closely resembles the real game. Coop games where you play multiple players at once can work unless they impose huge workload on the player (which I would argue is the case with Shadows of Brimstone and especially High Frontier). Essentially Bios Genesis solo works this way, but the workload for 2 players isn’t onerous.
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David Griffin
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Ok, I just had a go at the Mars solitaire game and wasn't that happy with the experience. Based on some of the things in the solo rules, it looks as if you can play on Earth too, though it's not quite clear how that works and what rules changes if any are applicable (or whether you're just meant to play 2 handed).

Also, assuming I had the rules even half right, it's AWFULLY HARD as a variant of an already complex and hard game. Between the standard rules, and the exceptions within them to the overlay of all the additional rules for Mars, just figuring out what you can do is tough for me anyway. Plus even when I can figure out what I CAN do, often it's pretty little. And then even with rain dance, it's an awfully long shot.

It seems like the message of Megafauna 2nd ed is that it's a tough game to make a successful species. And the message of the Mars version is "you think THAT was tough ... heh heh heh." I can't call it a fun experience, mainly because the physical exercise of playing it is really a grind. Yes it's complex x 2 (due to the rules overlays) and hard hard hard, but beyond that it's just not fun.

Playing 2 handed wasn't the solo mode I typically like, but it was a lot more fun than this and an interesting puzzle.

Ok, all of you out there who have played Mars (and I know there is at least one) what was YOUR experience with Mars? Did you play it at an early experience level or only at a high experience level? Did you think it was fun and if so, what did you like and not like about it? Would you rather play 2 handed or would you rather try to play Mars? Is there an official Earth solo mode? It was hard to tell from the rulebook.

I was told about a solo variant. I downloaded it and will review it.

Thanks!
 
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Matt Watkins
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carbon_dragon wrote:
Ok, I just had a go at the Mars solitaire game


The solitaire game isn't very good for learning the rules. It's better to play a 2-handed multiplayer game by yourself. I suggest starting with the Tooth and Claw variant, which is simpler, more strategic, and more cut-throat than the achterbahn game.
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David Fenton
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carbon_dragon wrote:
Ok, I just had a go at the Mars solitaire game and wasn't that happy with the experience. Based on some of the things in the solo rules, it looks as if you can play on Earth too, though it's not quite clear how that works and what rules changes if any are applicable (or whether you're just meant to play 2 handed).

There is no difference when playing solo on Earth other than using 4 cratons, starting with a slightly different reservoir split, and treating tectonics differently. The goal and plants operate the same.

I think the issue with the solo is that Bios:Genesis is all about just surviving until the end. Just getting one or two macroorganisms can be HARD. Solo is basically playing the cooperative game by yourself. The fact that there is a cooperative game is telling.

In Bios:Megafauna is all about competition. Managing to keep creeples alive to the end isn't very difficult as you can easily expand faster than the world kills you. Without competition, what would the goal be?

Looking at the variant, the AI acts, disperses, and mutates randomly (with no strategic thought). There are some slight differences based on number of unborn or turn number, but that's mostly just weighting. There's no guidance about rafting, attempting to disperse in an impossible direction (north off the board), or which creeple to disperse from. It expands randomly and simply tried to survive whatever it hits. I can't imagine it would be hard to beat, and am not sure what the win condition is.

If you want to play two-handed, just play two-handed (or three- or four-). There's no hidden knowledge in the game, so you don't even have to bother keeping secrets from yourself.
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David Arlington
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andrewdoull wrote:

I think your rules work well. Phil just ended up deciding on a different approach for the official solo game.


For the record, I'm quite happy he did.

I played American Megafauna solo when the solo game didn't even use the map! (There was just a climate strip or something you played on.)

I played the first edition of Bios: Megafauna which DID have an attempt at a solo AI (which was greatly improved by the Paul Harford variant in the Living Rules).

In this version, not only do I get the regular full game that is super easy to play solo by playing multiple sides (no hidden info, no bidding) (Sorry, but no AI variant here is ever going to be as good as you just looking and figuring out the best move to make for a side), but I also get ANOTHER solo game that is like a totally different game that you can play on three different planets. And then there is Tooth and Claw game available as well to be played solo.

From American Megafauna where there wasn't really a viable solo game to the first edition of Bios: Megafauna where the solo game was a decent attempt at mimicking another player but fell short in some areas, now, as a solo player primarily, I am super happy that I feel like I bought a game that gave me like SIX different solo versions in one box.

To be honest, after the first two versions solo modes, I was not expecting to get as much bang for my solo buck as I ended up getting. So, from me, good on Phil for coming up with that extra official solo version instead of just another attempt at an AI. I think that was a brilliant idea.

Dave
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David Griffin
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In the High frontier 3rd ed, the game wasn't sold as a solitaire game and the solo mode was similar in not really being a good "standard" mode of play. I thought that was fair.

Once you put 1-4 players on the box, people will expect a good solo mode. My belief of what is possible for solo changed when I bought Scythe. And my non-automa idea of how a good solo mode could work changed when I bought Massive darkness.

Phil is a good designer and I am confident he could do one for this game if doing so was higher in priority. How does that priority change? Generally when it impacts sales. The thing is, he's not selling a LOT of copies and he has a pretty dedicated community, but I need a good solo mode. I'll have to go review Greenland and Neanderthal which I'm backing now. If I can't verify there is a good solo mode there, I might withdraw my pledge.

It's like 95% of my gaming (solo). I like the learning experience for Phil's games, but it doesn't do me much good if I don't have a good solo experience.
 
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David Fenton
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carbon_dragon wrote:
Once you put 1-4 players on the box, people will expect a good solo mode. My belief of what is possible for solo changed when I bought Scythe. And my non-automa idea of how a good solo mode could work changed when I bought Massive darkness.

I feel like it's a bit unfair to compare solo play in a cooperative game like Massive Darkness against a competitive game like Megafauna. In cooperative games you're all against the game, and in solo games you're alone against the game. Mechanics don't have to change much. This is why Bios:Genesis has a much simpler solo game...it's almost identical to the co-op game. It's also why competitive games need an automata.

You also complain about how much more complex and different the Megafauna solo game is, but it looks like Scythe has a separate 12 page manual and deck of cards just for solo play.

Most people don't expect a 1-4 player game to be best at 1 player. If you look at BGG, you'll see that it's pretty clearly recommended for more than 1 (4 is "best") since it's heavily competitive. Similarly, Mage Knight Expansions say 1-5 players. The game is one of the top solo games, with a "best" # of players at 1-2, while playing with 5 is a nightmare due to game length. Supporting a 1 (or 5) player version doesn't automatically imply that it's just as fun with any number of players.

Also, I've seen people on the board complaining that the solo game is pretty easy, so you might have done something wrong (so might they, for that matter). One thing might be if you're forcing the plants to fight against you as herbivores instead of dispersing into empty hexes.

On the bright side, the rules for Eklund games are publically available, so you can check out the solo play before you buy.
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carbon_dragon wrote:
In the High frontier 3rd ed, the game wasn't sold as a solitaire game and the solo mode was similar in not really being a good "standard" mode of play. I thought that was fair.

Once you put 1-4 players on the box, people will expect a good solo mode. My belief of what is possible for solo changed when I bought Scythe. And my non-automa idea of how a good solo mode could work changed when I bought Massive darkness.


The solo game for Bios: Megafauna 2 is good, it's just not good for learning the game. And as pointed out above, Scythe's automa isn't less complicated than BM2's plant player. Just look at the first page of the automa manual and you'll see a bulleted list of 10 ways the automa plays differently than a regular player. And it's rules are complicated. For the move worker action:

Quote:
2. Determine valid territories: Territories in the neighborhood of any Automa unit or its home base which do not contain an enemy unit or Automa worker other than the one selected in step 1.


And that's just step 2 of a 5 step process for the 1 of the 7 move actions. That's certainly no less complicated than the BM2 rules.
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David Griffin
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dsdhornet wrote:
carbon_dragon wrote:
Once you put 1-4 players on the box, people will expect a good solo mode. My belief of what is possible for solo changed when I bought Scythe. And my non-automa idea of how a good solo mode could work changed when I bought Massive darkness.

I feel like it's a bit unfair to compare solo play in a cooperative game like Massive Darkness against a competitive game like Megafauna. In cooperative games you're all against the game, and in solo games you're alone against the game. Mechanics don't have to change much. This is why Bios:Genesis has a much simpler solo game...it's almost identical to the co-op game. It's also why competitive games need an automata.

You also complain about how much more complex and different the Megafauna solo game is, but it looks like Scythe has a separate 12 page manual and deck of cards just for solo play.

Most people don't expect a 1-4 player game to be best at 1 player. If you look at BGG, you'll see that it's pretty clearly recommended for more than 1 (4 is "best") since it's heavily competitive. Similarly, Mage Knight Expansions say 1-5 players. The game is one of the top solo games, with a "best" # of players at 1-2, while playing with 5 is a nightmare due to game length. Supporting a 1 (or 5) player version doesn't automatically imply that it's just as fun with any number of players.

Also, I've seen people on the board complaining that the solo game is pretty easy, so you might have done something wrong (so might they, for that matter). One thing might be if you're forcing the plants to fight against you as herbivores instead of dispersing into empty hexes.

On the bright side, the rules for Eklund games are publically available, so you can check out the solo play before you buy.


Ok, let's talk about Tiny Epic Galaxies. This is a competitive game and the enemy AI is not an automa, but it does work quite well.

About Scythe, yes there are always going to be SOME rules associated with the enemy AI in such a game, but it's not that hard and when you play, you're playing Scythe, not some other game that happens to use the same components. I'm not a Scythe expert but I've played both multiplayer and solo with the autometta and it was the same game both times. Playing the solo version a bunch of times would get you better in Scythe and that would work equally well in the multiplayer game (same with Terraforming Mars).

Yes, by all means check out before you buy. Though I often have to play a game before I really understand it enough to know whether I will like it. Just reading the rules is often not enough.

I'm not really sorry I backed these games, I'm bringing them to the local con this week. But I'm trying to encourage a better solo mode in BM2.
 
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David Griffin
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Matt_W wrote:
carbon_dragon wrote:
In the High frontier 3rd ed, the game wasn't sold as a solitaire game and the solo mode was similar in not really being a good "standard" mode of play. I thought that was fair.

Once you put 1-4 players on the box, people will expect a good solo mode. My belief of what is possible for solo changed when I bought Scythe. And my non-automa idea of how a good solo mode could work changed when I bought Massive darkness.


The solo game for Bios: Megafauna 2 is good, it's just not good for learning the game. And as pointed out above, Scythe's automa isn't less complicated than BM2's plant player. Just look at the first page of the automa manual and you'll see a bulleted list of 10 ways the automa plays differently than a regular player. And it's rules are complicated. For the move worker action:


I have to disagree, though it's possible that a really experienced player would find it fun. I don't think I would, much as I love Mars. Just too restrictive.

Matt_W wrote:

Quote:
2. Determine valid territories: Territories in the neighborhood of any Automa unit or its home base which do not contain an enemy unit or Automa worker other than the one selected in step 1.


And that's just step 2 of a 5 step process for the 1 of the 7 move actions. That's certainly no less complicated than the BM2 rules.


As I said above, you do have to learn how the automa works. It's always something of a pain to have to learn more rules than the multiplayer player does. BUT, here you end up playing Scythe. In the BF2 Mars Solo you end up playing a new game that uses the same components as BF2 but is really quite a different game with very different rules. Yes there is a family resemblance, but not a close one.

I aspire to play multiplayer, and when I do, I want to be able to play competently. To do that in a complex game, I have to play it a lot and here that would NOT be the solo mode (because it's not the same game). It would have to be playing 2 handed. I might do that a couple of times to teach competently, but it's not a good enough experience to do it a lot (for me).

Megafauna is worth keeping around to play occasionally with someone else and Bios Genesis DOES have a pretty good solitaire experience (and it's VERY like the multiplayer game).

Granted Phil Eklund doesn't aim his designs at a wide audience. He's essentially narrowcasting to a small, dedicated audience. Maybe not having a good solo mode in BM2 doesn't hurt him with the audience he has (as much as I think it would in a larger game release). He may not be as motivated as many game designers are today to spend time on the solo mode. But I figure he did a good job on Bios Genesis so I'm hoping he might keep solo more in mind for some of the other games he does.
 
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David Griffin
United States
Marietta
Georgia
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No, I've printed out the link from Samuel and have to look at it. But it will have to be after the con.
 
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