This thread describes/discusses the design and development of the Vasco da Gama SoloPlay variant.
The download is available using the following links:
Vasco da Gama SoloPlay Rules
This file is #23 in the SoloPlay series.
More game files available here on the Geek can be accessed from the following Geeklist:
SoloPlay Variants Posted on the Geek
SoloPlay- BGG user GameRulesforOne
Design Goals: Improve game value by providing a challenging solo variant that plays like the original. This one does not fall into the never gets played category since it is so new. It should get plenty of multi-player play in my group. However, we only meet once or twice a month and this game is too good to just sit around unplayed.
I have been watching and reading up on this game since the Essen list was created back in July/August 2009. I had 8-12 games on my target list and only 1, this one, made it through all of my filters into my collection. Others are on the maybe list if the prices come down but I couldn’t wait on this one.
While in the design process of the In the Year of the Dragon SoloPlay variant my copy of Vasco da Gama arrived and I gave the game a quick couple of solo plays using the normal mechanics and quickly figured out how to make a solo variant for it. I love it when the idea comes quickly. I can see where the strategic elements and mechanics will lay and then only need to formulize the process and then it is off to play-testing but in this case I made a quick pit stop. I bit the bullet and wrote down all of my ideas and then created a 1st draft of them. Often times I want to jump straight to the play-testing and the “writing” takes much more time. Since I was working on finishing In the Year of the Dragon and then the Dominion expansions I knew that I would not come back to the game for a bit and I did not want to lose anything. I am glad that I did this.
My review of this game stands that it provides a unique twist on the worker placement mechanic and gives the players a lot of interaction with other players while you try to focus on the order that you need to do things. Right now this game is a solid 8 in my book. This is saying a lot since I have a tough rating system. I am hoping that the game will get a lot of multi-player play. So far in solo play it has gotten close to 100 plays and with the 2 variants there is plenty of variety to keep my interest.
SoloPlay Vasco da Gama Design Comments:
I started down this road using all 4 colors and found it to be a very challenging experience but a little over the top so I backed up and worked up the single variant and then pressed forward into the multi-color variant. They both pose there own issues with the multi-color one definitely a step up in play. Some alteration were made as a result of the single color play-testing and then I brought those forward into the multi-color design. Therefore the design includes 2 different variants for the player to explore.
All of the focus for the design had to start with the numbers area. Since this is the unique mechanic, I wanted to make sure that as much of the method was maintained in my design. I use an interesting little twist with the play.
The core idea uses the numbers as workers who can be moved around (if a character is chosen), retrieved in an end of round action or remains in the action areas to impede the player later in the game. There are 3 skill levels in the variant that focus on playing the numbers to the action areas. The player is required to play the numbers to the action areas in ascending order and depending on the skill level the “neighboring” numbers cannot be within a certain range. For example, there are 5 spaces in the navigation area: For Easy during the course of play you could have played 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 in the spaces, for Normal play you could have played 11, 13, 15, 17, 19 and for Expert play you could have played 7, 10, 13, 16, 19. These changes create very interesting dilemmas for the player to deal with especially when not all of the numbers are available to use when the game begins. So you have to start planning number placement as you go and from the start.
As far as executing the actions, the navigation, recruiting and project areas remain the same but the character area had to be altered to prevent the continued bonuses that you would get in the multi-player game. This would break the design. So the action spaces in this area are assigned to each “character/Real” action and specific rules are put into place to restrict the ongoing benefits of the roles. Once you have played it through a couple of times you begin to see when you need to choose what role. It is very dependent on what you “allow” the game to do.
This brings me to the next point: the game will take projects and navigate ships but only if you let it! That last part is the key. You need the game to intervene and fill the navigation area so that you can “ride the wave” up to Calicut. I think one game I was able to do it all myself but the merchant ships were falling right for me to make it happen. Don’t count on that happening.
My biggest concern (other than the numbers area) with the play is understanding how and when the game takes its actions. I labored over this ceaselessly right up to the end.
To summarize the game taking actions:The game takes projects if the lowest number in the area was left from a previous round. The game will then gain a project for each number left from a previous round. This only happens if the player activates the area. In other words, if you do not commit to taking a project, the game will not automatically “help you out”. This was an important point in the design.
The game will navigate if it has ships, a number was left in the area in a previous turn and once again only if the player activated the navigation area.
Finally to increase the planning and to provide the player with “new” options to consider some additional end game scoring options were added. All of these were put together during the play-testing because certain projects, numbers etc. were really non-options unless something was in there to entice the player to make the choice. These additions should be handled in sequence to make sense for the multi-color variant.
What started to form in my mind is how I needed or could save actions and how taking money too often or at the wrong point can really derail your game. I got an excellent feel for which projects are more crucial then others and when you need to jump ahead of the game to navigate 1st etc. Future planning is very important since there are only 5 rounds in the play.
It became a tough game to put down in the end and provides the right amount of planning and variability.
Goal of the rule design
1. Keep the primary mechanic intact.
2. Give the game maximum replayability.
3. Focus on developing a high level of challenge for the experienced player.
4. Keep the same game flow and quick play time.
Comments are always welcome.
1. Learning how to work the numbers area is crucial to success. It will take a little time to work this out so that you are not penalized for non-action.
2. Adapt based on the position of the 1st free action marker.
3. Review the end game scoring opportunities to aid in maximizing the score.
4. Recognizing when the merchant and VP action should be taken to aid in your play. It does not seem that taking those in a given round is consistent.
5. For the MP variant, long term goals are key to success. Since all of the colors have to reach a score level to gain a game victory you cannot focus on just one of the colors.
Setup time: about 5 minutes
Play time: about 30-45 minutes
I would rate Vasco da Gama a 7 to learn how to play competently and probably an 8 to be decent at it. I would put this variant at about an 8+ challenge level. There are a number of things that the player needs to consider that are not present in the multi-player game.
I hope you have fun with this variant and find that it provides a great deal of re-playability.
If you have questions about the rules, you can be post them here or to this user’s mailbox to be answered individually, if needed. I will add a FAQ to this post as I see the need.
Other games that will be/are available from SoloPlay/GameRulesforOne are posted within a Geeklist that I created: SoloPlay Variants Posted on the Geek
All new variants and information about upcoming projects will be listed there.
A game that sits in a closet is a waste. Get it out and play it any way you can. These are just my ideas.
Vasco da Gama design blog - I just received my copy (2/5/10) and figured out how to put a solo game together for it. I was surprised at how simple it was to do. I actually have 2 solo variants for it, base and expert.
Update 2/15/10 I have been play testing my ideas for VdG for about a week now. I have begun the process of simplification and have made my 1st pass at the rules. The core mechanic that works within the numbers selection is easy to show but a bit harder to explain as is how the game purchases projects and navigates. I am working on creating 2 different solo variants for it that pose there own unique challenges. Not sure on a release time for this one, maybe 2 weeks but it will depend on creating variable play and balancing the play mechanics. The VdG tile turn is particularly concerning for the design.
Update 2/16/10 I went ahead and did a second scrub of the rules which is generally the brutal one and the one that I do not look forward to. With this behind me I will continue with the play-testing.
Update 3/1/10 Playtesting continues. I am currently reviewing the scoring goals which seem to be holding up 80+ for a game victory. Getting a balance on the actions at this point seems to of particular interest. The game sends ships depending on the limitations that the player sets. This seems to fluctuate given the circumstances and affects your scoring opportunities. I haven't nailed it down in my mind which approach is better. I am currently working a setup turn (the 1st) to determine if it is the best turn or if turn 2 is because the recruiting section is more full. I am working on the single color solo variant (SC).
Update 3/6/10 I am addicted and am glad that I put the rules down earlier in the process this time because I can't put the game down. Everytime I think I got it (plan a set up turn, focus on coin ships etc) I get beat down by not opening my eyes to the "problem". I should/not have taken the reals, I should have gone to landing 3 to get that captain, I should have taken the merchant, I needed to diversify my numbers better etc. On the up side I did get 2 master victories (102 points) which were sweet struggles. The scoring ranges have not changed and I am about 30+ plays into it. (70 easy victory, 80 normal, 90 major and 100 master) Rules clarifications and a streamlining of a couple functions are still needed. Not sure of a release date. Maybe in 2 "more" weeks? Quick review of VdG, buy it!
Update 3/10/10 I am adding "graphics" to the rules to aid the player in understanding the play concepts. There is a simple game leveler that will be put into play so that you can increase the challenge very simply without changing the play mechanics. I have been able to gradually increase my final scores and I found a small loophole in the setup that needed to be fixed. Such a small thing had a large affect on the end score. Things have settled in so it is just a matter of getting it down on paper. No player's aid for this one.
Update 3/15/10 I think have it done. A detailed scrub of the rules has been finished as well as the addition of key diagrams to aid in the primary mechanic. I am going to add an example game to aid further the number selection area. I think that I can have this done by week's end. I will go back and retest the "2nd" variant contained in the rules to ensure that it has not been affected by the subtle changes. This may come to be possible changes with the game ratings.
Update 3/18/10 The struggle continues ... I have added an example "game" and a couple more visual aids and am hoping that I am not muddying the waters. I am still testing the (MC=multi-color) variant (2 SoloPlay variants will be in the file) to ensure that my changes for the (SC=single-color) variant did not cause any harm. So far so good. The planning needed in the MC variant is much more tense and brain bending then the SC variant. This is what I signed up for. Both ways play very tight. Still thinking that I can have it wrapped up by 3/20/10.
Update 3/20/10 As promised ... it's away. File uploaded 9:00am, 3/20/10 pending admin approval. Hopefully I have included everything that the players will need to fully understand the gameplay. This should be available Monday or Tuesday.
Next game will be ??? I need to finish PoF but Alhambra is calling but all of those expansions. Once I see where the inspiration takes me I will post the update.
Update 3/23/10 8:30am CDT File posted to the geek
- Last edited Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:49 pm (Total Number of Edits: 6)
- Posted Tue Mar 23, 2010 7:07 pm
FYI, in your first sentence, I think you mean "Vasco Da Gama" instead of "In the Year of the Dragon".
FYI, in your first sentence, I think you mean "Vasco Da Gama" instead of "In the Year of the Dragon".
Good catch ... going a little too fast today with the cutting and pasting.
On another note, I most definitely want to give this a shot, as I've never tried any game solo other than Arkham Horror.
I gave it a first shot yesterday (the SC variant) and fell short of reaching the 80 points victory threshold (I scored 72 pts).
I liked your solo variant a lot. The game remains the same in essence (although I am still learning the game) but feels more challenging (a different challenge I guess). Next game, I won't use Manuel 1er in the 1st round but rather in the 3rnd or 4th round. Selecting him first forced me to move disc in the character zone (using Bartolomeu) and I could not move discs in other zones as I wanted to afterwards. Therefore, I could not play some of the actions in the last round, which cost me the shipping of one boat and the victory. But I hope I'll do better next time. ;-)