This thread describes/discusses the design and development of the Hansa Teutonica SoloPlay variant.
The download is available using the following link(s):
Hansa Teutonica SoloPlay Rules
This file is #28 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.
I have been playing this game at gaming conventions for almost a year now and I knew that the time would come that I would make this purchase. It seemed to have been universally played every time that I would go. The experience was so varied as well. I played in free-wheeling, cerebral, group-think and instructional games.
A classic experience to relate was in the group think games on the 2/3 player board. The focus was heavily on the action city to the point of the exclusion of everything else. It was a 2 to 1 focus with me being the 1. The other players continue to play to the action route and little else for the 1st 10 turns or so of the game. Even after the leader in actions placed a marker on both ends of the action route, the other player kept going there giving him 2 PP a pop. Stop!!! The game ended quickly and I did not even bother upgrading just to see how well I would do with a 4 to 2 action deficit. I think I lost by about 15 PP. I worked on my network instead and if the other player had focused on this too, Mr. “action” guy might not have won (or least not by that margin). Game 2 went the same way except this time I made it to 3 actions and then occupied both the “bookends” of the action route and both of the other players kept giving me 2 PP every other turn it seemed. Even after I said something like “you are giving me the game” didn’t seem to phase them and the game ended quickly but this time I won by a very wide margin because I focused on building a strong route while I was getting my “bonus” PP. It was an interesting case study of group think. This would be oh so very boring if this happened in every game with experienced players.
My family looked at the game and said “No” to getting in some plays because there is nothing interesting in the game and since the game has no luck element they felt that they were doomed to failure. While they might have been right, I don’t play to humiliate but to teach the aspects of the game and to improve their play in the hopes that they will be able to play competitively in the future.
Given this, I immediately looked at the game to determine if a game as player dependent as HT is could be made into a SoloPlay variant. I was pleasantly surprised and relieved that it could be. This game needs to be played to be appreciated.
SoloPlay Hansa Teutonica Design Comments:
The biggest issues that I was going to face with this design were the “player” interactions, static board design and that you start every game with the same material and in the same state (development board).
Development Board (Escritoire):
The development board was/is very important to the game and if you can freely improve it the game would be very stale. Go to the action track x 4, some other track and build routes in the “cheapest” cities and score you best score ever. Yawn.
To combat this I determined that the opponents needed to act as interference but not only on the game board but on the escritoire (development board) as well. I toyed with a few ideas and determined that 2 tracks were going to impact the game the greatest will be the town key and action tracks. So these were going to be filled to capacity to constrict and balance the focus on the play. It will take 2 route fills to get to 3 actions instead of 1. I added a few other caveats that through playtesting needed to be addressed but for the most part the idea worked quite well out of the box.
Turn order/Game setup:
Next up was creating variation in the game. It was very apparent from my multi-player plays that the game is very “samey” and that only through the player interactions does the game truly flourish. With there only being 1 player it was important to create a new environment for each game that the player had to work with.
The opponents needed some kind of advantage and this was accomplished by populating the game board to a degree with opponent cubes. But this was not enough, so I went and added something similar to my effort for Endeavor with a turn track which is different each game. This now meant that while the active player took a turn each time a different opponent color would be taking actions. Suddenly the possibilities and interactions now seemed very strong and you needed to formulate a plan from the start. It was not going to be, I just do this and then this and etc. But wait there are still parts in the box, a wooden pawn and the guards. What can I do with these?
The “traveler” and the guards:
Believe or not there was still not enough variability and so I wanted to see how I could use these components to aid the strategic play. I quickly determined that the guards would occupy offices in the cities to create additional replay-ability but also to act as an impediment causing different tactics to be used.
The real item that ties everything together is the “traveler” so dubbed because he just travels the routes “looking” for the next player color on the turn order and granting a free action or a PP for their troubles. What came along with the traveler was the displacing function which is very important in the game and the idea to remove opposing markers from the game thus tightening their supply. Well then why don’t I just tie in a game losing condition with this to boot. Do I have your attention now? No? Well how about a penalty if you displace too much? OK, I will take you into account now.
The way that the traveler meanders around is predictable and controllable. This is not a random event. You can choose to penalize yourself to better your game which is often a choice that I will take because sometimes he gets in the way too. The traveler proved to be “the” component that makes this variant work.
With this final piece in place, the game was now providing a sufficiently high challenge that I now had to learn how to play it. This is something I do now when I am putting these variants together. I play the game to get a feel for where things need to go and look for the rough spots and opportunities when an extra decision point might be needed. Initially the game was brutally difficult and I added a couple extra scoring opportunities. Later on these proved to be unnecessary as I learned how to manipulate the gaming elements and to plan better. As a result they were removed.
In the end, the variant seems to hold true to the original game play and provides the variation and challenge that I like to have in a solo variant.
Goal of the rule design
1. Stay close to the original design and include all of the elements of play.
2. Create variability within the static design of the game board and elements.
3. Create a satisfying gaming challenge.
4. Keep the same pace of play of the original.
Comments are always welcome.
1. Opening up abilities is important but excessive focus on a particular one (actions) may compete with the ultimate goal of beating the game design. The action track adds complexities to the play because the opponents gain the additional actions at the same time and it becomes more important to plan their moves than you own.
2. It may take a little time to determine how best to proceed after the game setup has been completed. The sequencing of the opponents and their positions on the development board interact in a way that will have to be learned.
3. The traveler plays a major role in the game and can cost the active player dearly if a path cannot be determined and maintained that will keep the game moving forward for the opponents. It is possible that this element alone could cost the active player the game.
4. Merchant discs are at a premium in the 2 variants that have been included especially on the 4/5 player board where there are more cities with a merchant 1st position. The action city also becomes a little more difficult to work with.
5. Along with the traveler, the guards can become a nuisance interfering with the traveler “costs”. They also prevent a East to West cross board connection through their cities which is something to take note of.
Setup time: about 10 minutes
Play time: about 45-60 minutes
This project was a very enjoyable experience for me to work on. I like the game quite a bit and being able to play it anytime has made it worth the price of purchase. The variability in the play and how easy/hard it can be to get the development board opened up is a very interesting thing to figure out.
It is very important to understand how the traveler will impact the game and how he “functions”. The additional action that he grants the opponents is crucial to the game design.
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.
What follows is my design blog from my updates in the SoloPlay geek list:
Update 10/25/10: Hansa Teutonica I received my game order for the last half of the year and was eagerly awaiting this game. My family's initially response to it was not very encouraging but I really like this game. So you know what this means. I tore the game down and dabbled with mechanics from both sides of the game board and came upon the core mechanic that will drive a SoloPlay variant. It is still early but the development board idea seems to be holding up. I am using all of the components in my idea so the wooden meeple and the border guards will see action. The combination of these items is meant to increase the replay value. I have only made a couple of run-throughs on it so it is still very early and things will likely change.
I haven't forgot about Through the Ages it just takes a long time to playtest and my time has been crunched recently.
Update 10/26/10: Hansa Teutonica I have further refined my ideas for the SoloPlay variant and it is a very challenging game. I have 2 board sides to work with so for extra variety I am going to look at divising a variant for each side. More is better right? It is coming together really quick. Your competition in the current design really gets in the way but you also need to cooperate to develop your abilities. Last night I struggled to get the action track opened up until mid game and decided to go for a low scoring game but came up short. I don't think that I had the right focus and should have worked harder at opening up a different ability quicker. More to come.
Small World is still pending with the admins as of this morning.
Update 10/27/10: Hansa Teutonica Played twice last night and am really struggling to get a balance in my play to create at least a resemblance of knowing how to play the game. Getting the action track open in a timely matter without giving away too many points is a challenge. Getting more than 2 developments open to the fullest without the benefit of a bonus token may not be possible so you will need to be selective based on the board setup as to which ability will provide the most benefit during the game. Advancing on the action tracks aids your opponent as well as you so this must be considered carefully. I would say that the framework of the game is in the 80-85% range. Still have a bit of a concern for variability but it is too early to determine the magnitude of the issue.
Update 10/28/10: Hansa Teutonica I still have yet to win a game of this and it is frustrating (that is a good thing) which means that I am learning how to play. I am in the middle of a game where I went ahead and developed the action track to 4 actions which gives your opponent(s) also 4 actions (it was the best option I had after setup) and my opponent is well into the lead. I am hoping to be able to control the cities and get a merchant into Coellen for a VP boost. Maybe if I can connect the 2 red cities in my last 8 turns I can turn the tide but I also need the merchants. I used the bonus token (advance 1 ability) to move forward the liber sophie to get an extra merchant trying to give me some flexibility but the board is filling up quick with the extra actions that the opponent is getting. I am trying to swing my opponent off of some of my key routes to give me some options. The bonus tokens have helped a little but they are now in areas that I cannot access, at least to gain a benefit. Since each bonus token used scores for your opponent at the end of the game you have to be selective in using the tokens. There is a way to offset this that I am testing which makes the bonus tokens an interesting pawn to use in the game. At lunch I am going to finish up this game to see if I can pull it out.
Final score: 50 to 48 (I log my 1st victory). I was only able to open the Liber Sophiae to its fullest although I had the potential to open the Privilegium(also the bag) track on the last turn but decided to push my opponent to 20 points to end the game. This choice probably won the game as the board was choked full because for a good portion of the game we were taking 4 actions. It was 20-8 before final scoring. I scored 4 for completing an ability, 8 points for Coellen tying up at 20. City Scoring: The game controls 12 cities and I had only 10 (game +4, 44-40). Checking my network I had 8 x 1 but I limited the game to 4 x 1. We are tied up again (48-48). In the 2nd to last turn I took a city and a bonus token knotting up the used and unused bonus tokens - no points either way(48-48). I gain 2 points for a couple of end game conditions that I had added to give increased incentive to push forward on those tracks which ultimately makes the difference. Not getting the Privilegium track open prevented me from making the 7 point red city connection. The key and indirectly the bag track are the tracks that offer a small to potentially large scoring opportunity. I really focused on the opponent turn order to keep a strong presence on the board which provided the opportunity for me to swing traders around at a couple of key moments.
Update 10/29/10: Hansa Teutonica 2 point loss last night. Held my opponents points down and only got to 3 actions by about turn 15 opening up the priviligeum track to build a decent route x 2 keys and came up short. The board was just too full with potential scoring everywhere for my opponent. May need to try to focus on giving up a little to improve the bonus markers potential. I noted that I may need to add a little incentive to the priviligeum track to occupy "black" cities. I have mixed feelings about the amount and if it is necessary. It is important that it is a consideration in the game. This game was a bit odd because my opponent(s) had more "grouped" turns which caused me to plan my moves differently.
I am committing my ideas to paper to lock in what is working. The setup is extensive and the wood pawn plays a very important role and may be a little complicated to explain. Something will come to me as I write it out.
Update 10/30/10: Small break ... Le Havre with the "Grand" expansion cards. 2 losses and a major victory in 3 games. C'mon, I can do better than this. Taking too many resources I think.
Update 11/1/10: Hansa Teutonica OK, I am back after playing my Grand Hameau series and ended with a 50/50 (3 wins/3 losses) split and an average of 192 points. I am way out of practice on Le Havre. It was fun though.
With HT, I have played through many more times and have finalized the opponent decision tree (more of a bush really), end game scoring and layed down the game rating goals. So far this game has played really, really tight ... I like it. My last game I screwed up on my last turn and did not recognize that I could have taken a city away from my opponent on the last turn and with the key multiplier at 2 would have taken away 2 points from my opponent and up my score by 4 giving me the victory but noooo I didn't see that and I also noticed that I messed up something else in the game. So even if I had won it would have been a tainted victory. In this game I noted that connecting the 2 "red" cities might be possible given the way the setup layed out and that the action track appeared to be stronger so I went for it and accomplished this by using the extra office bonus token to make the key connection. I was able to get 2 abilities open completely, privilgeum and actions. Not getting even 1 advancement on the Liber Sophiea was almost crippling at some points but I thought that I could work around it. I was on the brink of failure numerous times during the game. If any of your opponents run out of their supplies, you lose.
I am going to say that I am about 95+% done with this project, it has come together really quickly. The really tough part is yet to come ... the 1st complete rules draft and the 1st scrub. This can be quite painful to work through as I try to clarify and focus my ideas on paper.
Update 11/2/10: Hansa Teutonica Well I reached my 1st major victory with a 4 point win last night and used the completion of the "red" cities to supply the extra points. This prompted a concern because I did not want this to be the only path to victory so I tried the same approach and was just cooked because I could not get the action track open quick enough to permit me to lay enough material on the board to make it happen. The concern is still there so I will be trying to break the design to ensure that all "normal" strategies are viable options to victory. I have won without the "red city" connection before as noted above. It comes down to how the turn order, board setup and during the game how the development board starts to open up. Come to think of it I was able to get 2 abilities open which gave me the extra 4 points so I guess it was not just one thing that made it happen. Still ...
Update 11/3/10: Hansa Teutonica Played 2 games last night and lost both. In the 1st I just could not get the connections that I needed. I was always 1 step behind my opponent. In the 2nd I tried something different and made a major faux pax giving a Coellen scoring opportunity to my opponent (9 points). So needless to say it was my biggest loss so far. I was trying to "purify" the board to make progress in building the routes easier. I guess we are meant to struggle in life. Other than Coellen it was a 4 point loss but I completely developed 2 abilities just to score as I did.
I spent most of last night jotting down all of the other rules for the variant in preparation for the 1st rules construction session. And then I have to play the other side of the board to provide some more variety for the soloist. I have been playing the 4/5 player side. My concern about the game playing the same each time has gone down because I have not been able to reconstruct my major win by playing the same ideas. That is a good thing. I am about 25 plays into this design now and I am nightly having the opportunity to knock out multiple games.
Update 11/5/10: Hansa Teutonica It took 2 nights to accomplish but the 1st pass of the rules has been completed. I have gone over the very involved game setup again and it seems to flow and make sense to me but this does not mean that it is finalized. Getting the wording down on how to place the guards and occupy the Coellen route is a little tricky. I am sure that there will be at least 3-4 more edit sessions. I still need to play the 2/3 player board and see what modifications are needed to provide a 2nd solo-variant. More playtesting is needed and I am looking forward to it. Sometimes I hate to have to stop and write down the rules because I am having so much fun playing it (El Grande was like this). I hope to have this one done by the end of the month.
Update 11/8/10: Hansa Teutonica I have been performing the editing on the rules and was able to get in another play last night a 35-35 tie. I messed up and did not get the actions opened up right because of my miscalculation of the forced move and the fact that I was running the opponents supply too low which forced me to take 1+ turns just balancing things out. I think that I am going to have to add the additional scoring incentive because I can see a way to potentially take advantage of it, even though I have not been able to yet. For once, I did not give up too many points moving the "traveler" which kept me right on the opponent(s) game scoring heels. If I only could have got the +1 ability used without giving up 4 points (making it a wash) I would have been able to bring it home.
I will likely get in at least 1 game tonight and work on the 1st major rules scrub.
Update 11/9/10: Hansa Teutonica 1st rules scrub has been completed and updated. I played 3 games on the 2/3 player board last night and noted that only a couple alterations were needed to be able to play on it. The 1st game I was clobbered, the 2nd game I gained a complete victory (9 point margin) and the 3rd game was a 5 point win. Initially I had to change my way of thinking because the board is more restrictive and certain abilities need to be more of a priority to be successful. I am still tweaking little bits in the design to smooth out the play and balance the options in the game. Play-testing continues.
Update 11/15/10: Hansa Teutonica Another scrub of the rules has been completed which was relatively minor but helped to get things sequenced a bit better. The 2/3 player board modifications have now been included so you have a choice of boards to play which offer a surprisingly different play experience.
Update 11/16/10: Hansa Teutonica I played a couple on the 2/3 player board and in the 1st game I took full advantage of the town keys (1st time that this has happened) and blew out my opponent which broke a portion of the design which has been addressed to a degree. The setup with being able to get to 3 actions, gain the "move 3" bonus token and then to get a couple ability advancement tokens allowed me to open up 3 abilities to the fullest provided the engine that made it happen. So the way that the colors were sequenced played a part in this as well as recognizing that what I was trying to do was possible given the setup. With the adjustments the result was a master level victory with issues (I neglected to include the guards in my play which most certainly would have added to my opponents score - it was interesting to note that affect) In the 2nd game I tried to focus on the town keys again and just could not get it together to score well with it and while I still did win, it was a struggle. I did not fully open any abilities which kept the scoring low. I noted that I needed to make another minor alteration to the 2/3 player board to increase variation in the play.
I have an idea that will probably become a leveling element to make the game harder/easier and likely give the game some additional strategic elements. More to come.
Update 11/17/10: Hansa Teutonica A couple more 2/3 player games completed and I noted that the Liber Sophiae action can be abused in the case of the opponents and so you will be permitted to perform it only once in a turn for the opponents. I have been getting much better in my play recently and am starting to remove the training wheels to provide the proper challenge to the player.
Update 11/18/10: Hansa Teutonica This is becoming more fascinating as this process goes along. Last night I noted that getting a position in Coellen was going to be possible and more lucrative than my network given that the town keys was not going to be opened enough to make a difference. This gave me a 4 point victory. To accomplish this I had to make what seemed like an odd play to ensure that my opponent did not run out of "hardware" on the last turn thus causing me to lose the game. I did not open any abilities completely although I really wanted the Priviligeum completed. The scores were depressed as a result. If there was another turn the wheels may have come off.
When the game begins there is so much that you will need to absorb to determine your best "possible" path to victory. My hopes are that this won't overwhelm the solo player.
I noted last night that there needs to be a restriction for merchant placement for the opponents due to an unlikely but possible situation that I was "taking" advantage of to help my cause.
Update 11/23/10: Hansa Teutonica I just completed another scrub of the rules taking away a couple of scoring opportunities that turned out to be unnecessary and adding in a couple of restrictions when dealing with your opponents. I also added a scoring penalty that was needed based on how I was constantly creating "non-plays" for the opponent. This came as I passed plateau #3 in my learning of this variant. The scoring goal seems to be appropriate for the results that I am getting. The 2/3 player board seems to be a little easier to play but now that I am going back to the 4/5 player board, we'll see.
Last night I played a "I'm gonna break this design" game and was thoroughly beaten. I basically went straight after a path that I saw without regards to playing a more balanced game. I should have sequenced my moves better and opened up the options more quickly. I determined that the action track was going to be more of a hinderance than an opportunity and thus focused on forging a "low score" victory. I was beaten by more than 10 points so I succeeded in keeping my score down.
I still need to perform a couple more "break the design" games to validate the game mechanics. I am back to playing on the 4/5 player board after dealing with the 2/3 played board for the past week or so. Not sure of my play count now but I can easily get in 2-3 games a night with each taking about 45-60 minutes to play and about 6-8 minutes to setup.
Update 11/24/10: Hansa Teutonica Played 2 games with all of the updated rules on the 4/5 player board and it all checked nicely. In the 1st I should have won but gave up an extended "traveler" move twice and had to use a bonus token (4 actions) to execute my final plan giving my opponents 2 points. I again was playing a reduced action game which plays really tight and is really dependent on how the development board opens to achieve success.
In the 2nd game I wanted to push the action track up quickly but I just could not set it up given the structure of the 4/5 player board. I still have my play style for the 2/3 player board in my head. You have got to plan the opponents merchant disks better due to the increase number of those positions in the cities especially near the action city. I lost badly and should have at least got 1 ability opened up completely but didn't. I also saw I could score Coellen and did but without the action support it took too long to execute it but I was committed at that point.
Late last night I polished up the rules and noted a number of little typos and grammatical errors that needed to be cleaned up. I am thinking that I will need a couple of pictures to help in communicating the very important mechanic of the "traveler". The wood pawn is what ties this game variant together. Without the role of the wood pawn in combination with the guards there just would not be the variety in the play to make it interesting.
The rules are currently standing at 6 pages without pictures and is fairly dense with examples along the way to help guide the soloist into understanding the play. Let's see if I can wrap this up by the end of the week. I still need to really put some stress on the design to ensure that a "weakness" is not exposed. I keep getting sidetracked into playing a more balanced game due to the game conditions.
Update 11/26/10: Hansa Teutonica Last night's game: I really wanted to focus on developing the action track and since 1 of my markers was placed on the "critical" 4 action position I was looking to set up a more "complex" game. The complexities increase when you develop your escritoire (development board, especially the action track) because your opponents benefit as well from "your work". I was careful to stay focused on the merchants because the 4/5 player board can really be crippling if you are unable to free them up and then you have got to use them for your opponents to give them cities before you start getting dinged in points. I try and let them take the 1st merchant position in a city and then take a higher trader position to capture the city. It is a timing thing because too many merchants available in a short period can be very costly. I limited my exposure to only a 2 PP penalty. In the end it was getting the key track open to grant me 5 more points than my opponent that gave me my 3 point victory.
The setup for victory:
The advancement token showed up and I was in a quandry whether to open the priviligeum completely or to pop my guy off of the action track and try to get the priviligeum track opened naturally. I had the remove 3 token as well. Since every bonus token you use gives points to your opponent you have to be careful using them. By using both tokens in concert, advance the actions and then remove 3 traders I was able to get the job done. I later picked up a bonus token to offset the cost of playing the 2 I did. I was able to get the priviligeum opened and eventhough it was near the end of the game that extra action kept the opponents moving so that I could execute my end game.
A higher level victory was not to be however because the opponents were sitting on 19 points with 1 turn to go and there was no way to prevent them from gaining a point so the game ended in 19 turns. I might have been able to get a master victory if I could have been able to open the town keys 1 more position. Those last 4 turns were pretty intense.
Early in the game a crucial "opponent" move from the route going into Coellen saved the game allowing me to open the priviligeum track to "pink" but more importantly preventing my opponent from running out of inventory causing an immediate game loss. You have to take note of the opponents merchants on this route because you may need them in a pinch.
Anyway, the rules, gameplay and challenge seem to be holding up well. I have begun the final process of creating a visual aid to describe the setup and traveler's role and hope to be done by the end of the weekend. This one has been a joy to put together (like El Grande) and "appears" light on the surface but really has a measure of depth to it. The variability is amazing given the static board.
I will move into Macao immediately following the completion of HT. I have received a copy of Dungeon Lords as well and need to continue to play test Through the Ages. So much to do during this holiday period.
HT follow up: I have completed the visual aide and after doing a final review of the rules find a major mistake (trader instead of merchant) in a number of places in the rules. That would have been bad and quite confusing. I have fixed this and uploaded the file.
SoloPlay HT is now pending admin approval.
Hansa Teutonica Update: still waiting on file approval. It was uploaded last Friday evening (11/26/10).
HT Update: Not sure what is taking so long with the file approval for HT. This is the longest amount of time that it has taken to get the file available. My apologies for the delay. I did go through the rules recently and noted 3 more "incorrect" words in the whole of the rules but none of them are "critical" in nature. I have gained an appreciation for editors through all of the rules sets that I have put together, however.
Update 12/4/10: Hansa Teutonica File approved and available for download.
- Last edited Sat Dec 4, 2010 1:40 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Sat Dec 4, 2010 1:37 pm
I don't know if I've ever played a game solo (even Agricola) but I think I want to give this one a try with your variant. Thanks for sharing this.
I'm going to have to try this, soon. Thanks for your effort!
There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time.
Thanks for designing and playtesting this, HT is one of my favorite games so I will surely try this.
For some reason the pdf of the solo rules though is very hard to read (looks almost like a xerox of an old type-written document where parts of the letters are faint and hard to detect). Maybe an arial font would have been more legible? Not sure why it came out that way on the pdf, but if you had the text as a forum post (or maybe you could GM it to me in a word doc or something) that would be great, I could print that out and it would be easier to read.
Thanks again though!