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Subject: Solo Gamers: I need your help! What do you want in a solo version? rss

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Trey Chambers
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So I'm getting more and more requests to make a solo variant, and I am getting more and more interested in making one myself. What would you want in a solo mode?

I prefer ones where you play against an opponent, so I'm thinking an automata deck is the way to go. Something like, on the opponent's turn you draw a card. The card tells you which direction they build in and on what terrain(s). Some cards will also trigger a delivery or do other special things.

My goal is to make the AI play fast and smooth with few extra rules to learn while still providing plenty of challenge. Difficulty can be ramped up by letting the AI take extra turns at the beginning of the game and/or by adding harder cards to the AI deck.

Those that have played a lot of solo games, how does this sound? Anything else in particular you want to see?

Edit: We're now in testing mode, and so far it's working great! Here's the full rules. I know they look detailed and complex but they are honestly REALLY simple and it plays smoothly and quickly.

SOLO VARIANT RULES:

Follow the rules for a 2-player game with the following exceptions:

UNIVERSAL RULES:

-On the Automata's turn, draw a card and resolve its effect(s) to the best of its ability. When the Automata is down to its last unplayed card, shuffle this card and its discard together to create a new deck.
-If there is ever ambiguity for the Automata, the player decides.
-The Automata will always deliver their largest possible delivery for a city they are connected to when they draw their Delivery card. They take and score the goods and demand tiles, just like a player. If there are different colors tied for largest possible delivery, use the priority listed on their Delivery card.
-The Automata build priorities:
Will always try to build towards their nearest out-of-network city, if possible.
Once connected to all cities, it will build on and towards hexes that still contain goods, with a priority on hexes that do not contain player tracks and are furthest from the player's network.
If it can't build towards an unconnected city, it will build on a hex containing an unclaimed good if possible, and that does not contain a player's track if possible, and is the furthest from the player's network.
If it can't possibly build with its drawn card, it loses its turn. This may happen several times in your play. That is normal.
-The Automata will never transfer unless its card allows it to.
-The Automata will always try to drop Wasteland on a good in the player's network, but not in its own, but only if such a hex is network-adjacent. If not, the Automata will place the wasteland on a hex closest to the player's network that is not its own native terrain.
-The Automata will use "pull good" powers to first pull goods out of a part of the player's network that does not overlap its own. If not, it will pull a good from a hex it shares with the player into a hex only it has a train in. For both of these, it will prioritize goods that the player has the most opportunity to deliver. If it can't make either of these moves, it will pull a good into its network at the point the furthest from the player's network, prioritizing goods it's already connected to the city of.
-The "Gain Spellcar" symbol for the Automata means add a card from the common Automata Spellcar deck and shuffle it into its face-down company deck (NOT the discard pile). These cards are more powerful and simulate a company's engine ramping up.

SETUP:

-Choose an opponent company to play against and take its 5 company cards as its starting deck.
-You will take the first turn in the game, which means the Automata will place their starting Train first.
-The Automata will place a single starting train on its company's native terrain in the central most hex of that terrain on the map. If multiple hexes qualify, place it in the one closest to a city.
-Do NOT use awards when playing with the Automata.
-Ignore Specialists and Spellcars which "copy" items on other player's tableau. If you draw one during the course of the game, discard and replace.

GAME END:

-At game end, the Automata will deliver ALL remaining eligible goods in its network BEFORE the player's final delivery (but it can only claim a maximum 1 demand tile of each color).

USING THE AUTOMATA WITH MORE PLAYERS:

-Follow these same rules using the appropriate map size, but give a token to the last human player in turn order (you may use a train of a color not in play for this purpose). If an ambiguous situation comes up, the player with the token makes the decision then they pass this token counter-clockwise and the player that receives the token will resolve the next ambiguous situation.
-Do NOT ignore Specalists and Spellcars that copy other players.
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Philipp Ottensamer
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Yeah, I think the most important part is that it plays fast with few extra hurdles. That usually keeps me from solo gaming.
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Domus Caligari
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I know it's the popular film at the moment, but we don't need Star Wars themed games from Level 99.

whistle
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Jorge Alvarez
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The automata deck sounds excellent. Throw in some events in there to make it more exciting/variable if possible. If you can make it so the automata has different playstyles, for example, with a single leader card you pick at the start of the game that gives it certain priorities or bonuses, that would be super cool.

To me the most important thing is that the goal is winning and not simply beat your own score. Beating your own score or "this is how well you did" scoring is boring as heck.
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Lisa Henrion
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Well for the solo mode, since this is initially a competitive game it would make sense to create an AI that would play against us, if you go this way you can easilly (or not for all I know xD) put level difficulties, and if possible replayability so you could create phases in the game, with sets of cards for each phase and the oponent grow stronger each phase. Those sets of cards will allow for the replayability, for example we have 10-20 cards for each phase, and only 5 are being played, so every time you play you shuffle each stage and you get a different oponent, less predictable. And in those cards you could add extras that would be added to the original deck of each phase and make them harder, those cards could be add-ons since I know design is expensive and player would get the choice (the whole solo game part could be an add-on)

I really do not know if I'm making myself clear xD
What I mean is that the game could be for example composed of 3 phases, of 5 turns each, you have stage I, stage II and stage III, with always better cards each phase, because we as real player become better and enhance our train and such, so the ennemi needs to grow accordingly. And for each of those stages a deck, that is bigger than the number of cards used for the stage to offer replayability. On top of that you can add difficulty cards but it is not mandatory
What I'm saying is really for the example, I don't know at all if this matches the original gameplay so be gentle with me as a french player xD

But to be truthfull, I'm not much for a competitive game, and I'm not sure most solo players are, I would really love to see some kind of missions, objectives, you play alone but in XXX turns you have to deliver such goods to given city because their people are cold or starving, are sick or so on. You point a starting point, and you give us a mission to accomplish. To give more coherence there could be extra fullfilment conditions that could give an adventage for the next solo mission, thus adding replayability because one time you might get the fullfilment, and the other time not

Yet again, I would be willing to pay extra for the solo mode, so that it could have some extra funds and really be as great as it could be!
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Xavier Lloyd
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The automata deck sounds cool! So they wouldn't be buying specialists and Spellcars then since all the powers would be baked into the deck?
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Simon Agner Holm
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OldTallandUgly wrote:
... If you can make it so the automata has different playstyles, for example, with a single leader card you pick at the start of the game that gives it certain priorities or bonuses, that would be super cool...


Very much this ^^

I think the coolest thing about the Automata in Gaia project and Scythe is the fact that it has a different style depending on which faction is assigned to it. Also seems like that particular aspects will be fairly easy to implement into solo Empyreal since each of the base companies have a fairly well defined a focus: Kerigan=deliveries, Gesselheim=wastelands, Caterpillar=expansion/goods-denial ect.
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Brian Busha
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Uh... quick question, could you mold this into a co-op mode then by amping up this AI opponent? Like, get really funky with this and you could most definitely have something insane on your hands... just saying.

1p to 2p vs AI seems like a scaling issue that can be solved by math, not necessarily needing new mechanics... heck, even stepping over each other could be part of the game, as you don't want to wreck your friends while stifling the AI.

Sorry to barge into the solo thread, but wanted to get the idea out there
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Trey Chambers
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Yes I definitely want to have different powers to shuffle into the deck based on your opponent.
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Jack S
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Hmm, with an automata deck of cards, perhaps each card could have multiple tiers like:

Tier 1: Build on Green or Blue Or Red
Tier 2: Build on two of the above
Tier 3: Build on three of the above

Where before it makes two deliveries, it does Tier 1.
Between three-four deliveries, it does Tier 2.
After four deliveries, it does Tier 3.

Although I guess I wouldn't know how it might choose between multiple hexes of the same colour? Maybe something alone the lines of 'pick hex closest to ___ colour' or 'pick hex not occupied / occupied by opponent trains' etc.
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James Irwin
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Shampoo4you wrote:

Yes I definitely want to have different powers to shuffle into the deck based on your opponent.


I think it'd be really cool if you did it the other way around. You have a set of base cards for each faction that represents their starting state. Then, every time you run through the deck, you maybe deliver what's in the bot's network and then add a new card or two from the generic automata deck. This represents the bot buying new spellcars or getting a specialist or something.

You could potentially have a value on each automata card that discards cards from the deck, representing it skipping spots on their player board. Maybe there's another value that represents how many additional spellcars you pull from the deck to also activate. I dunno, it might be too complicated.
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Trey Chambers
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Stickdood wrote:
Hmm, with an automata deck of cards, perhaps each card could have multiple tiers like:

Tier 1: Build on Green or Blue Or Red
Tier 2: Build on two of the above
Tier 3: Build on three of the above

Where before it makes two deliveries, it does Tier 1.
Between three-four deliveries, it does Tier 2.
After four deliveries, it does Tier 3.

Although I guess I wouldn't know how it might choose between multiple hexes of the same colour? Maybe something alone the lines of 'pick hex closest to ___ colour' or 'pick hex not occupied / occupied by opponent trains' etc.


I'm thinking it will also have a direction on the card, and if it hits the edge of the map it bounces and goes the opposite direction.

I'm thinking it will get free transfers over cities, your track, and its own track, but not over wasteland so you can use wasteland to hem it in.
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Trey Chambers
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gimlianon wrote:
Shampoo4you wrote:

Yes I definitely want to have different powers to shuffle into the deck based on your opponent.


I think it'd be really cool if you did it the other way around. You have a set of base cards for each faction that represents their starting state. Then, every time you run through the deck, you maybe deliver what's in the bot's network and then add a new card or two from the generic automata deck. This represents the bot buying new spellcars or getting a specialist or something.

You could potentially have a value on each automata card that discards cards from the deck, representing it skipping spots on their player board. Maybe there's another value that represents how many additional spellcars you pull from the deck to also activate. I dunno, it might be too complicated.


Cool idea! I will need to ask Brad and see how many cards he's willing to put into such a deck.
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Darren
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Shampoo4you wrote:
gimlianon wrote:
Shampoo4you wrote:

Yes I definitely want to have different powers to shuffle into the deck based on your opponent.


I think it'd be really cool if you did it the other way around. You have a set of base cards for each faction that represents their starting state. Then, every time you run through the deck, you maybe deliver what's in the bot's network and then add a new card or two from the generic automata deck. This represents the bot buying new spellcars or getting a specialist or something.

You could potentially have a value on each automata card that discards cards from the deck, representing it skipping spots on their player board. Maybe there's another value that represents how many additional spellcars you pull from the deck to also activate. I dunno, it might be too complicated.


Cool idea! I will need to ask Brad and see how many cards he's willing to put into such a deck.

To add to this idea...
You could add "purchase" cards to the Automata deck that when used, has the Automata remove one of the Specialists/SpellCars based on the next cards skip value (the skip value is mentioned above in the quote - the value that would skip cards to represent how many cards to discard).

Example: The Automata flips a card that says it purchases(removes) a SpellCar. At that point, there are only 4 SpellCars available due to you having already bought two in previous turns. These would be numbered 1 to 4. To decide which one is discarded/purchased by the Automata, the next card is flipped and its skip level is found to be 3 so the 3rd SpellCar is removed. If the skip number is higher than the number of SpellCars/Specialists available, it uses the modulus of the number instead (i.e. a 5 skip value with 3 cards removes the 2nd card). In the case of specialists, if you have purchased a specialist already, only the remaining types that have meaning to you are included in the chance of being removed.
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Jack S
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gimlianon wrote:


I think it'd be really cool if you did it the other way around. You have a set of base cards for each faction that represents their starting state. Then, every time you run through the deck, you maybe deliver what's in the bot's network and then add a new card or two from the generic automata deck. This represents the bot buying new spellcars or getting a specialist or something.

You could potentially have a value on each automata card that discards cards from the deck, representing it skipping spots on their player board. Maybe there's another value that represents how many additional spellcars you pull from the deck to also activate. I dunno, it might be too complicated.


Hmm, alternatively, there could be an automata company board (or the automata just uses a pre-existing company's board), and cards be used to indicate how far the conductor moves + whether or not it obtains an spellcars. Automata doesn't have to worry about mana costs. Although it could gain spellcars that aren't 'useful' for it (if we want to keep the programming simpler), that might not be a problem since the automata could be quite powerful without being hindered by mana.

Could also use a D6 to determine directions of placement and a D4 to represent how far the conductor travels.
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David Wiley
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Trey,

The best thing I can recommend regarding the integration of a solo mode would be to point to how it is implemented in Viticulture: Essential Edition.

The deck of Automa cards in there are simple to pilot and exclusively focus on the player interaction points in that game. The Automa doesn't plant fields, harvest grapes, make wine, fill orders, build structures, or gain visitor cards. They place workers on the board to fill spaces. The rest of that doesn't matter because those are done individually and have no impact on the player themselves.

So my biggest suggestion is to focus on finding where those interaction points are in Empyreal and run with those as the focus. Solo gamers don't expect it to play exactly like a 2-player game, we just want something that competes with us along the way. Something that gets in our way and has the potential to set our progress back a turn or two. Something we have to take into account and plan around each turn to make sure everything doesn't blow up in our face.

Find playtesters who play a lot of solo games. Reach out to reviewers/media who do a lot of solo gaming, such as Low Player Count, and get their input. Even if it is just to send the rules and have them look it over to see if it sounds like a solid solo system.

I may be at Gen Con, and if you have something functional by then I'd love to help test it out live (preferably after playing a 2-player game with you beforehand!)

Feel free to PM me, or email me (cardboardclash7@gmail.com) if you want to discuss further! I love Argent and Harvest and am super-excited for this game.

Regards,
David
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Ste Ze
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Hi Trey,

I agree that an automa deck is the way to go, but please keep it simple.

Since Viticulture has been mentioned, let me just link the Automa Approach by
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.

And maybe check also the Solo System, which is card based and may offer some inspiration, especially in regards to different personalities and different movement/strategies.

Finally, what is the plan, to implement this as an offical PNP variant downloadable from the Level99 website, or are you actually considering to add it into our box directly?

thanks!

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Trey Chambers
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As far as rules go, here's my current rough idea:

SOLO VARIANT:

Setup: Choose an AI opponent. Each will have a difficulty rating so that you make play them in ascending order of difficulty. Place the AI in the centermost hex (if there's multiple options, your choice) that corresponds to its native terrain. Then, place your starting trains as usual. The AI takes the first turn.

Turns: The player plays as usual. After each player turn, pull a card from the AI deck and execute it accordingly.

Victory: The AI makes their most valuable possible final delivery after yours. Do NOT use awards when playing solo. Score as usual, Goods + Demand Tiles.

Simple enough? Any addendums?
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James Irwin
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Sounds excellent! Nice and lightweight. I feel like the tricky part is gonna be making it competitive enough to feel challenging, as well as making it scale up against the player as they get more spellcars.

I'm definitely able and willing to test in Tabletop Simulator if/when you get to that point!
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David Wiley
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Shampoo4you wrote:

As far as rules go, here's my current rough idea:

SOLO VARIANT:

Setup: Choose an AI opponent. Each will have a difficulty rating so that you make play them in ascending order of difficulty. Place the AI in the centermost hex (if there's multiple options, your choice) that corresponds to its native terrain. Then, place your starting trains as usual. The AI takes the first turn.

Turns: The player plays as usual. After each player turn, pull a card from the AI deck and execute it accordingly.

Victory: The AI makes their most valuable possible final delivery after yours. Do NOT use awards when playing solo. Score as usual, Goods + Demand Tiles.

Simple enough? Any addendums?


Sounds like a solid start point there. I can't wait to see how this develops!
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Gabriel Edge

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Shampoo4you wrote:

As far as rules go, here's my current rough idea:

SOLO VARIANT:

Setup: Choose an AI opponent. Each will have a difficulty rating so that you make play them in ascending order of difficulty. Place the AI in the centermost hex (if there's multiple options, your choice) that corresponds to its native terrain. Then, place your starting trains as usual. The AI takes the first turn.

Turns: The player plays as usual. After each player turn, pull a card from the AI deck and execute it accordingly.

Victory: The AI makes their most valuable possible final delivery after yours. Do NOT use awards when playing solo. Score as usual, Goods + Demand Tiles.

Simple enough? Any addendums?


I was almost thinking simpler (and fewer components) for the most basic solo interaction. The way I read the game so far (not having played it yet) is that player interaction comes mainly from:
1. Train network blocks
2. Delivering the goods out from under you.
3. Taking specialist/etc. cards out from under you.

It seems relatively easy to set up a deck to do this without requiring running two companies.

A deck of cards is created with one terrain type per card. This will be the only new components.
+AI draws a card for their initial placement. Unlike other train companies, whenever the AI builds first, they own that terrain tile (player cannot build on a tile with an AI train)
+Player gets next placement and first turn.
+During AI turn one of the two will occur:
- Draw a card and build network adjacent, this card is now out of the draw deck until a delivery is made.
- OR, the first turn after the AI's network is adjacent to a city, instead of drawing and adding it must make a delivery (and reshuffles cards).
- If the AI does not get to a city by the time the draw deck ends, then reshuffle.
+ Game ends when player either AI or Player collects appropriate number of demand tiles.

Maybe as a starting point, this can work easier than creating a full deck of cards. Then again, I don't know how many extra cards are currently needed to make the decks cost effective from the production standpoint.
 
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Trey Chambers
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weirdlaugh wrote:
Shampoo4you wrote:

As far as rules go, here's my current rough idea:

SOLO VARIANT:

Setup: Choose an AI opponent. Each will have a difficulty rating so that you make play them in ascending order of difficulty. Place the AI in the centermost hex (if there's multiple options, your choice) that corresponds to its native terrain. Then, place your starting trains as usual. The AI takes the first turn.

Turns: The player plays as usual. After each player turn, pull a card from the AI deck and execute it accordingly.

Victory: The AI makes their most valuable possible final delivery after yours. Do NOT use awards when playing solo. Score as usual, Goods + Demand Tiles.

Simple enough? Any addendums?


I was almost thinking simpler (and fewer components) for the most basic solo interaction. The way I read the game so far (not having played it yet) is that player interaction comes mainly from:
1. Train network blocks
2. Delivering the goods out from under you.
3. Taking specialist/etc. cards out from under you.

It seems relatively easy to set up a deck to do this without requiring running two companies.

A deck of cards is created with one terrain type per card. This will be the only new components.
+AI draws a card for their initial placement. Unlike other train companies, whenever the AI builds first, they own that terrain tile (player cannot build on a tile with an AI train)
+Player gets next placement and first turn.
+During AI turn one of the two will occur:
- Draw a card and build network adjacent, this card is now out of the draw deck until a delivery is made.
- OR, the first turn after the AI's network is adjacent to a city, instead of drawing and adding it must make a delivery (and reshuffles cards).
- If the AI does not get to a city by the time the draw deck ends, then reshuffle.
+ Game ends when player either AI or Player collects appropriate number of demand tiles.

Maybe as a starting point, this can work easier than creating a full deck of cards. Then again, I don't know how many extra cards are currently needed to make the decks cost effective from the production standpoint.


What you're describing is very similar to what I'm describing, I'm not sure what the difference is. Except I think the deliveries should be on the card to make the AI deliveries unpredictable.
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Gabriel Edge

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Shampoo4you wrote:
weirdlaugh wrote:
Shampoo4you wrote:

As far as rules go, here's my current rough idea:

SOLO VARIANT:

Setup: Choose an AI opponent. Each will have a difficulty rating so that you make play them in ascending order of difficulty. Place the AI in the centermost hex (if there's multiple options, your choice) that corresponds to its native terrain. Then, place your starting trains as usual. The AI takes the first turn.

Turns: The player plays as usual. After each player turn, pull a card from the AI deck and execute it accordingly.

Victory: The AI makes their most valuable possible final delivery after yours. Do NOT use awards when playing solo. Score as usual, Goods + Demand Tiles.

Simple enough? Any addendums?


I was almost thinking simpler (and fewer components) for the most basic solo interaction. The way I read the game so far (not having played it yet) is that player interaction comes mainly from:
1. Train network blocks
2. Delivering the goods out from under you.
3. Taking specialist/etc. cards out from under you.

It seems relatively easy to set up a deck to do this without requiring running two companies.

A deck of cards is created with one terrain type per card. This will be the only new components.
+AI draws a card for their initial placement. Unlike other train companies, whenever the AI builds first, they own that terrain tile (player cannot build on a tile with an AI train)
+Player gets next placement and first turn.
+During AI turn one of the two will occur:
- Draw a card and build network adjacent, this card is now out of the draw deck until a delivery is made.
- OR, the first turn after the AI's network is adjacent to a city, instead of drawing and adding it must make a delivery (and reshuffles cards).
- If the AI does not get to a city by the time the draw deck ends, then reshuffle.
+ Game ends when player either AI or Player collects appropriate number of demand tiles.

Maybe as a starting point, this can work easier than creating a full deck of cards. Then again, I don't know how many extra cards are currently needed to make the decks cost effective from the production standpoint.


What you're describing is very similar to what I'm describing, I'm not sure what the difference is. Except I think the deliveries should be on the card to make the AI deliveries unpredictable.


Glad to know this was more similar than originally thought.

I think the differences were:
+who gets first turn
+limitations of rail building (based on AI location)
+I read your deck as more of an "Automa" style deck instead of just the different terrains (which could work for randomizing different companies in the main game, come to think of it).
+when deliveries occurred

So the largest difference may of just been a misunderstanding of how big a deck you were describing and how big a deck I was describing for the AI.
 
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Trey Chambers
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Current plan is each AI company has a different deck of 5 cards that they start with. These AI decks have different strengths and weaknesses and will escalate in difficulty as you beat one and move to trying to beat the next.

One card of the five for each company will obtain for them a "Spellcar card" from a randomized common pool all AI companies will draw from which simulates their engine ramping up. These cards will generally be more powerful than their base 5.
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Gabriel Edge

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Shampoo4you wrote:

Current plan is each AI company has a different deck of 5 cards that they start with. These AI decks have different strengths and weaknesses and will escalate in difficulty as you beat one and move to trying to beat the next.

One card of the five for each company will obtain for them a "Spellcar card" from a randomized common pool all AI companies will draw from which simulates their engine ramping up. These cards will generally be more powerful than their base 5.


Ahh ... cool. will the "Spellcar card" be an actual spellcar they use in a folio? Or is it another card for their deck?

(I do like the idea of the deck growing over time and helping build up the variablity of the solo game)
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