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Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery» Forums » Variants

Subject: Simple Solitaire Variant rss

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Dale Buonocore
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I just knew there had to be a satisfying solitaire variant hidden somewhere within the parameters of this great game, and so, after much digging, play-testing, and tweaking, here’s the one I finally found...

You’re still playing for the highest number of VPs you can get (and after enough plays to get a feel for the possible range, perhaps different “win levels” can be developed -- e.g., X = “Bare Win,” Y = “Solid Win,” Z = “Epic Win”), but there is a semi-intelligent impeding auto-player (AP) who works to thwart your efforts. You’ll need a D6 to help make some of his choices among available options -- and assume he always has enough $ to make any purchases selected.

Set-up and play proceeds basically as in the 2-player game, with the AP always getting the usual 5 colonists (plus any specialists he is entitled to) each turn. On his turn, the AP places specialists first (use the D6 to choose which one first if 2 or more types are available) as follows: 1) Merchants & Captains go to the Merchant Shipping box unless he is already ahead there, in which case they go to the Colonist Dock; 2) Missionaries & Soldiers go to the Colonist Dock; 3) if these options are not possible, treat them as normal colonists, who are placed via the D6 as follows:

1 = Initiative
2 = Colonist Dock
3 = Trade Goods
4 = Merchant Shipping
5 = Capital Buildings
6 = Specialists

Thus, the AP does nothing with Discoveries or Warfare, and on turn #8 he also ignores Initiative and Specialists. Roll the D6 again if the selected option is no longer available. Note that, in some cases (e.g., Merchant Shipping), the AP simply functions to deny you an option you might want, while in most other cases (in the Resolution phase, below), he more actively works against you.

During the Resolution phase, the AP works as follows for each box:

1) Initiative -- as usual.
2) Colonist Dock -- here, things get interesting. The AP essentially places his colonists/specialists where they’ll hurt you the most. Specifically, each goes to the colony where he can at least tie your number of colonists if possible, or else to the one where he can get closest to a tie (use the D6 to choose among equal options).
3) Trade Goods -- use the D6 to choose among the available trade goods there.
4) Merchant Shipping -- as usual.
5) Capital Buildings -- even more interesting here. He will target those available buildings providing extra colonists/specialists (except for those mandating placement in the Discovery box), using a D6 roll to choose between multiple possibilities, and then will use those buildings as usual from that point forward. If no such buildings are currently available, just use the D6 to choose among those that are (EDIT: note that any useful buildings acquired by the AP will be used by him as appropriate, not just those providing extra Colonists/Specialists!).
6) Specialists -- use the D6 to choose among available options.

If any other situations arise where the AP’s appropriate choice is unclear, use a D6 roll to choose among the best available options.

That’s pretty much it. It seems to play pretty well so far, but any additional suggestions and possible “tweaks” will be greatly appreciated. If you try it, I’d appreciate knowing how you did in terms of your VP scores, so I can factor that into the possible determination of appropriate “win levels” at some point. I hope you find it enjoyable...!
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Andrew MacLeod
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I haven't tried it yet, but it does seem intriguing.
However, I don't like the fact that the AP can't engage in discoveries and warfare.
Re discoveries: couldn't an automatic trigger determine when the AP discovers? Say, perhaps, every time it has four workers in the discovery box, and then five workers once the discovery card deck starts to be used. Of course, on Turn 8, any AP workers left in the discovery box would attempt a discovery regardless. In terms of the original territories on the board, the target of discovery could be chosen randomly somehow, unless it was a territory that you had failed in discovering.
As for warfare, I don't think the AP would even have the option of placing workers in the warfare box, unless a trigger situation has been reached: say, when, in any territory, there is a 3:2 ratio of the AP's soldiers against yours. As for whether the AP opts for a battle or a war, have that dependent (in keeping with the spirit of your rules, Dale!) on which type of warfare will do you more harm.
All in all, though, this is a very interesting idea of yours, sir!
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Dale Buonocore
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Thanks for the response, along with the most intriguing ideas. I did flirt with the idea of somehow incorporating discoveries for the AP, but decided against it for 2 basic reasons; 1) seemed like allowing the AP to do this wouldn't really impede your efforts that much, as you could just re-direct your discovery efforts elsewhere; plus, the AP's energies would be diverted from other efforts which would likely hurt you more; 2) opening up this possibility to the AP would result in 7 options, thus necessitating using something like a D10 (vs. the simplicity of a D6) to accommodate that many choices. Part of me is always looking for the simplest ways of weaving together mechanisms making for a satisfying solitaire variant, and thus of optimizing that balance between "simple" and a "satisfying" -- so that "bias" may have influenced my choice here...

Nonetheless, based on your input (a very elegant triggering mechanism for AP discoveries, by the way!), I think I may seriously re-consider this possibility, and maybe even the warfare one as well. I'm also looking forward to the arrival of the recently ordered Builders expansion, as it looks like most if not all of that can be easily incorporated into this solitaire variant as well. Thanks so much for your input -- it is greatly appreciated!
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Andrew MacLeod
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Elad wrote:
Thanks for the response, along with the most intriguing ideas. I did flirt with the idea of somehow incorporating discoveries for the AP, but decided against it........opening up this possibility to the AP would result in 7 options, thus necessitating using something like a D10 (vs. the simplicity of a D6) to accommodate that many choices.


Most of the time a D6 could still be used, unless warfare was an option. Simply not have initiative as an option for the AP if the AP is currently first in Turn Order, or has already taken first place on the Initiative Track. Admittedly, an on-again/off-again use of a D6 does complicate things even further, I suppose.....whistle
 
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Dale Buonocore
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So, after further cogitation catalyzed largely by your "nudge" (thanks!), I'm now officially incorporating the "tweak" which follows into this variant -- it still excludes any discoveries by the AP, but does allow for warfare while maintaining D6 use with no need for a D10 or any other potentially unwieldy adjustments. So, here's the "tweak"...

When the AP rolls "1" for colonist placement, that colonist is placed in the Initiative box as usual unless the AP has any Soldiers currently in the colonies -- if so, that colonist is placed in the Warfare box, with full-scale War then declared by the AP during the resolution phase.

This should make for a rather more "aggressive" AP, don't you think?!

 
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Andrew MacLeod
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Elad wrote:
So, after further cogitation catalyzed largely by your "nudge" (thanks!), I'm now officially incorporating the "tweak" which follows into this variant -- it still excludes any discoveries by the AP, but does allow for warfare while maintaining D6 use with no need for a D10 or any other potentially unwieldy adjustments. So, here's the "tweak"...

When the AP rolls "1" for colonist placement, that colonist is placed in the Initiative box as usual unless the AP has any Soldiers currently in the colonies -- if so, that colonist is placed in the Warfare box, with full-scale War then declared by the AP during the resolution phase.

This should make for a rather more "aggressive" AP, don't you think?!



Too aggressive, perhaps!
 
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Dale Buonocore
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Perhaps. But it should certainly make it more challenging and exciting, eh?! You'll likely have to pay more attention to (and take a more active role in) events unfolding in the colonies, with this aggressive AP stirring things up over there! Let the play-testing begin...!
 
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Dale Buonocore
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QUICK UPDATE: Seems to play quite well overall. Incorporated all the new Capital Buildings from the Builders expansion, did not use any of the National Advantages (seem unnecessary and redundant for solitaire play), and did include use of the Builders except for the AP (who can still buy the buildings which produce them, but gets no benefit from them other than denying them to you; nor can he place any Colonists in that 5th Specialist block to stop you from getting them there). Scored 112 VPs, had a great time, and am very much looking forward to playing again!
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