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Subject: Hadrian's Challenge: Solitaire Variant rss

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Dale Buonocore
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Warren
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This extraordinary game seemed to be demanding a worthy solitaire variant utilizing a Roman "robot" player competing directly against you for the right to rule the empire. This variant consequently arose (in bits and pieces at first, only gradually coming together into a coherent whole), and has held up nicely to play-testing thus far (and has also been quite fun and satisfying to play!), although further play-testing is definitely in order and additional resulting tweaks quite possible. I hereby present it for your consideration...

You will be playing against a robot player whom I will call “Hadrian” (yes, there is a reason for that particular choice!). Begin with a 2-player set-up, and you’ll need a D6 “advisor” to help Hadrian make some of his decisions. Draw 3 commodity cards for Hadrian to start, and place one of his meeples on the Trajan space of your mancala. Note that Hadrian will not have to worry about meeting the people’s needs, but you will (just the price of being the emperor rather than the challenger). Except for Hadrian’s actions as specified below, the flow of the game remains essentially unchanged.

You start, and turns alternate as usual.

Hadrian’s actions are determined by using an adjusted D6 roll (credit to Almecho, by the way, from another thread!) as follows: 1-2-2-3-3-4. Move his meeple along the mancala that many spaces (and the time marker that many spaces, as well), and he takes actions as follows depending upon where his meeple lands:

CONSTRUCTION: For his first construction action, use your player mat and use the D6 to choose which type of building he will target, and he will choose the one of that type worth 5 VPs (he doesn’t get the additional action -- should you want to increase the difficulty level, you can have him take these extra actions) and gain those points. From that point on, he will first target tiles which contribute to a set (he will get VPs for completed sets at the end of the game), then those with the highest VP value. He has an unlimited supply of workers available, eager to do his bidding.

SEAPORT: He draws 2 cards, unless he already has at least 6 -- if so, he will ship in the way which provides the most VPs.

FORUM: Use the D6 to choose a tile. (I typically use a 1-2/3-4/5-6 adjusted roll to first choose the column, then again to choose the tile within that column; adjust if there are fewer than 3 tiles in the relevant column or row, e.g., 1-2-3/4-5-6...). He keeps the forum tiles chosen (not the extra action tiles), as these may result in VPs as a result of his bonus tiles at game end AND as his senate tiles will count as votes in determining the balance of power in the senate at the end of a quarter as usual. In addition, any "wild" tiles will be used by Hadrian in the most advantageous way.

MILITARY: First, and factoring in any -3 penalties from legionnaires of yours there, his leader moves to the highest value (VP) adjacent province (NOTE: an unoccupied province takes precedence over an occupied one among equal value provinces; then senate tiles break ties, followed by "wild" tiles; beyond that, use the D6 to break ties) and takes/keeps that forum tile. If his leader is already alone in a province, he will instead move a legionnaire there (as with workers, he always has legionnaires available) and gain those points. Next time, the leader will again move on, as above.

SENATE: Hadrian will take a senate action (and gain those points) as usual.

TRAJAN: Use the D6 to choose which tile he takes. If he chooses a “9VP” tile, he gets those points. Otherwise, he just discards the tile. (Incidentally, if at some point you wish to further increase the difficulty level, give him the VPs provided by all Trajan tiles he selects).

At the end of a quarter when determining the balance of power in the senate, if Hadrian wins, he will choose the bonus tile which gives him the most points were the game to end right now -- use the D6 to break a tie. You must have at least one vote in the senate to be entitled to the second (gray side up) tile if you lose -- but Hadrian will get it even if he has no votes.

At the end of the game, Hadrian gains points for commodity cards in his hand, construction tile sets, and bonus tiles as usual.

That’s pretty much it. It seems to play quite nicely overall thus far. So, if you like, please give it a whirl and let me know what you think. Any suggested improvements/tweaks would be most welcome. Thanks for your attention.

(EDITED to incorporate a couple of clarifications...)
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Dan W
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I'm going to have to find some time to give these solo variants a try. It seems quite interesting though I'd much rather teach someone how to play. I'd love to take this game camping but there are just too many pieces to be concerned with.
 
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Dale Buonocore
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For more experienced players, I do recommend incorporating those 2 ways of increasing the difficulty level noted above -- i.e., giving Hadrian the VPs for all Trajan tiles he takes, and giving him the extra action associated with constructing the first of any type of building.

What happened leading up to this was as follows: after losing the first 2 games without these adjustments (i.e., at the "easiest" level), I then won the next 2 (apparently as I was learning to play better and better -- I won the second one 128-82!) and so decided to "up" the difficulty level all the way as noted. Much to my surprise, I won by a score of 153 (my highest score yet!) to 125.

So, now I'm beginning to wonder whether maybe other ways of increasing the difficulty level further may need to be developed for really good players...?!

Great game, by the way -- even solitaire!

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Steven Van de Velde
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After trying the solo variant in the other thread, I'm going to give this one a go, immediately including the two ways of increasing difficulty. I do have one question though.

Elad wrote:

CONSTRUCTION: For his first construction action, use your player mat and use the D6 to choose which type of building he will target


This is a little vague. The original D6 gives 6 options, the modified D6 gives 4 options, while there are 5 types of buildings to choose from. So your way of determining the right building seems a bit flawed here... Care to elaborate?
For now I'm just going to use the modified D6 to choose a row, again to progress in that row, and the tile where I end up will be the choice of building. After which I determine the highest valued one.

Edit: Just finished this game. I won with 205 points, versus 166 for Hadrian.

I'd like to give this game a try with 2 Hadrians. see how that turns out. I don't think it's possible to win including the two modifiers that make the game more difficult. I'll start with the basis rules.
 
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Dale Buonocore
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Sorry that was unclear -- I just ignore/re-roll the "6" on that particular D6 roll.

Do let me know how it goes with 2 Hadrians - that should be interesting, especially if you also utilize the 2 difficulty level upgrades...!
 
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Steven Van de Velde
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Elad wrote:
Sorry that was unclear -- I just ignore/re-roll the "6" on that particular D6 roll.

Do let me know how it goes with 2 Hadrians - that should be interesting, especially if you also utilize the 2 difficulty level upgrades...!


Just finished this game with two Hadrians. I used both difficulty level upgrades: granting the extra action on choosing a certain construction tile for the first time, and always granting the points mentioned on the Trajan tiles.

End scores before end count:
Me: 65
Hadrian blue: 64
Hadrian red: 60
Total end scores after end count:
Me: 99
Hadrian blue: 85
Hadrian red: 85

I acquired two construction tile jokers during the game giving me the 20 points bonus, victory move as it turns out in the end.

Have to say: pretty balanced game when you include the difficulty enhancers. I had a lot more trouble acquiring the people's needs. I had to put more effort in it, therefore scoring not one Trajan +9 tile.
 
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Dale Buonocore
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Well done! Thanks for reporting back so specifically and concisely on how it went. I'll definitely be giving this a try at some point...
 
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Byron Campbell
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Elad, I must say this variant is exactly what I was looking for (have also tried the I, Trajan variant). After the first time against Hadrian, I made a few tweaks to the rules, and have just finished playing my second game against Hadrian with my tweaks. It was much tighter and more satisfying this time around, although I cleaned up with my best score yet (by over 50 points) due to a sweep of construction actions, payoffs on all my bonus tiles and some good luck throughout (for instance, I always managed to place a meeple before Hadrian in the territories).

Here is how I played:

All rules as described in your original post, except the following. Most of these tweaks were because I didn't like having to make any decisions for Hadrian, but they also make the game a bit tighter.

SEAPORT: During setup, I give Hadrian 2 cards instead of 3. When he takes the Seaport action, I first roll the die to determine if he draws his first card from the left discard, right discard or the face-down pile. His second card is always a face-down card. His hand of cards is kept face down. When he has 6 cards, his cards are revealed, all 6 are "played," and he flips over a ship (and takes the maximum points, regardless of the cards in his hand) depending on the current round. Round 1 he will flip over the "non-matching" ship, Round 2 he will flip over the "pairs" ship, and Rounds 3 and 4 he ships over the "matching" ship. I borrowed this idea from dougadamsu's I, Trajan variant.

FORUM: If Hadrian does not have a tile (either forum tile or Trajan tile) matching a demand that has already been revealed this round, and there is one available in the forum, he will take the one closest to the top left. Otherwise, roll the die as in your variant. This way, there is a bit of competition for the demand tiles.

TRAJAN: Hadrian receives the points for any tile he takes. He also receives the benefit from the demand Trajan tiles, but he does not receive any benefit from the others aside from points.

At the end of each round, when satisfying the people's demands, Hadrian does not lose any points for demands he can't satisfy. Instead, he gains points for demands he does satisfy. Use the same scoring ratio as you would for losing points: +4VP for 1 demand met, +9VP for 2 demands, etc.

When determining the balance of power in the senate, if Hadrian wins by 2 or more votes, he takes BOTH bonus tiles, gold-side up. If he wins by 1 or fewer votes, he takes a random gold tile (roll the die) and you take the remaining silver tile. If you win, you take your choice, and Hadrian receives the remaining silver tile. I did not use the rule that you have to have used a senate action at least once in order to get a tile.

At the end of the game, Hadrian gains points for the things you listed. The main difference is that he doesn't ever have to choose his bonus tiles or goods cards, which I found fiddly.

Using these rules, I scored a best-ever score of 203 points against Hadrian's 157.
 
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Dale Buonocore
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Nice. Thanks so much for sharing these tweaks -- I'll definitely have to give them a try when I get back to playing this wonderful game (which I still rate as my overall #1 game!). Seems like they might actually serve to strengthen Hadrian's play a bit in some ways, making him a tougher opponent...?
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Thanks, Dale. This is my favorite of the solo variants.
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charles webb
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I like the variant. I am gonna give the tougher rules a try the next time I play. My first game I beat Hadrian 165 to 102. ( I got some very lucky forum tile draws)
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