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Subject: Revising solo play with new rules - Just some ideas: rss

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This didn't seem to belong in my review thread, so I'm posting a few ideas of how I'm attempting to make this game more palatable for the solo player without damaging its integrity as a quickplay game. I'm attempting to add a lot of variety, with the end result being a tactical game that is (more) complex, without being complicated. Having said that, most of my games are completed in the 19-24 minute range prior to these rules, and I'd like to end somewhere around 25-40.

These are brainstorm ideas I'll be attempting to playtest this weekend. I didn't have the game, or the rulebook in front of me for the development of most of these, so they will likely need to be highly doctored assuming any of them are good enough to implement. These are not final suggestions... they are essentially 'what ifs'.

What I'm hoping to achieve:
- Fun!
- Replayability (brought about through variety) for the solo gamer

General Rule Changes:

- The AI player now accumulates crowd favor, can unlock tactics, and can win the game by maxing out crowd favor (I have not yet finished developing AI tactics)
- Most criminals/beasts no longer 'hit' every surrounding hex with their basic attack. They target individual units, just like Player gladiators do.
- Many beasts, bosses, and criminals have had their damaged reduced; significant reduction in "Big Bully" mechanic
- The Crowd now favors style and strength over just standing around: If a champion or gladiator of the Player or the AI Player score two or more hits in a single roll, their team gains one crowd favor point.
- At this point, there is no bonus for holding both crowd favor points.
- Bosses no longer have 'move across the whole arena and maul the Player's champion to death on the first turn' mechanic. This is another rule I'm not sure how or why it got past testing. But losing the game on the first or second turn through no fault of your own will not be allowed any more.
- Archers shoot 3 hexes by default and can longshot 5
- Conditions: I'll also be toying with conditions and determining if they add value to the game or not. Some existing tactics like "Stun" don't make any sense being a tactic, especially since in a solo game a stun will likely never be placed before a gladiator would if both were available. Stun will likely be a reproducible effect and applied as a condition. Other new conditions will also be implemented. The first one, "Crippled" will occur when an archer successfully hits on two more dice of the same attack roll. The target will have the condition "Crippled" applied, and lose its next turn movement. Another condition will be "Bleed", where the affected unit will lose one additional health at the end of its next attack phase (which may eliminate it, but it has the chance to move and attack before it bleeds out).

I've also divided the factions into three key areas: The Player (you), The AI Player, and the Arena/Beasts

They are presented here, with proposed changes for this play test, in the order they move:

The Player:
I've done little to modify the player at this point. However, new tactics, new gladiators, and new faction specific resources need to be implemented. The fact that currently all factions share the same tactics and mostly the same gladiator pool, will not do for solo play.
- Champion health starts at 10
- Champion is active from the start and does not need to be "hit" in order to activate.
- If any of the Players assets (champions or gladiators) score two more hits in a single roll, they gain one crowd favor for their team.

Potential new gladiator: Javelineer - hard hitting and close combat ranged fighter.

The AI Player:
The AI player has had significant changes. New scripts for the bosses. New gladiators with new scripts that allow them to act like team players and eliminate not only the Players champion, but the Player's ability to function within the arena by eliminating his assets. The AI Player can now also accumulate crowd favor, and unlock crowd tactics (though I have not developed them yet). If the Crowd Favor Meter for the AI Player ever reaches the max, the game is over, and with the crowd fully behind the AI Player, the AI is considered insurmountable and the Player is defeated (could be a win condition for the Player too.. not sure yet)

- If any of the AI's assets (boss, or gladiator/criminal) kills a beast or one of the Player's gladiators, the AI Player gains two crowd favor points for their team. If any of the AI's assets (boss, or gladiator/criminal) scores two or more hits in a single attack roll, they gain one crowd favor for their team (the crowd awarding style and big hits... this may need to be changed to 3 or more hits per roll).

- The AI Boss starts in the same location it does now. However on the AI Player's turn, randomly draw from the AI chip pool and play an AI gladiator. AI Player gladiators no longer use the central locations on the play mat to spawn. At the beginning of the game, or as their spawn phase happens, they spawn at 1D6 location in the AI Player's gladiator spawn points. There are exceptions to this. If the AI Player has unlocked the second crowd favor rank, then a new AI gladiator spawns at 1D6 location on whatever side of the arena the AI boss is on.

One aspect I do like about the game is they have you fighting criminals in the arena. However, there's a lost opportunity here in having such a broad category as 'criminal' or 'beast' when you could easily list types of both and introduce some variety:

Description: Mostly a thug
Attack: 2U 1Y
Ability: Shirks off the first damage it receives on a turn.
Health: 5
Movement: 0 Hexes on roll 1-2. One hex towards the Players champion on 3-6.

Description: The thief seeks to achieve team victory by eliminating the Player's assets.
Attack: 1U 1Y
Alt Attack: If, when attacking, the thief's target does not have an adjacent friendly unit, move one extra space to the side of the attacked unit, and roll one extra yellow die when attacking (flanking)
Health: 3
Movement: As long as the Player's champion is not in striking distance move 1 hex towards and attack the Player's assets in this order: Archer, Defender, Tactician, Attacker. If the Player's champion is in range, attack the champion.

Description: Need something here... this may just end up being the default 'Criminal' chip now that has nice damage, and can hit all targets in surrounding hexes. For now consider him default 'criminal' and play him accordingly. Will probably reduce the attack by 1Y.


Description: Kills fast moving assets, and gains crowd favor for the AI Player
Attack: 1B 1Y
Alt Attack: Longshot 1Y
Health: 2
Movement: Moves 1 hex towards nearest unoccupied crowd favor space and shoots nearest beast/Player asset. Does not move once on the crowd favor point unless forced to. If two targets are in range and neither are a champion then the Archer targets the opposing unit with the highest movement rate. Otherwise, attack the champion.

Legion Deserter
Description: Cowardly
Attack: 1Y
Ability: Shield Bash 1U Will bash Player assets first, then beasts
Health: 5
Movement: Moves 1 hex to nearest crowd favor space and camps. Does not move from crowd favor point if he occupies it, unless forced to.

- Most bosses will have refinements and their attack dice will be reduced. Again, we'll balance through variety rather than simply making bosses hit like a truck

The Arena, or the "Beasts":
Letting beasts act like beasts is paramount in a gladiator game. It's a silly rule that exists in the game currently that beasts only attack and engage the Player's gladiators. Now, the beasts will act like beasts most of the time and will openly and actively attack and pursue anything else in the arena that is not a beast. Beasts attacking beasts doesn't really need to be an exception either (if you don't want it to... I'm fine with beasts attacking beasts). However, for initial testing I mainly want to see how it goes with beasts being able to attack both the Player, and the AI Player. I'll worry about beasts attacking beasts later.

- If a beast kills a gladiator from the Player's team or the AI Player's team, that team losses 2 crowd favor.

- Beasts continue to be released or 'spawn' in the middle (via 1D6 roll, just like now) ensuring that there will be engagement with both Player and AI Player. Most likely there will be a set number of respawn beasts based on how far along you are in the scenario.

New Beasts:
Attack: 1B 1U
Ability: Bind on spawn; On spawn, roll 1D6. On a roll of 1-3 the Lion is Champion bound to your champion and on a roll of 4-6 the lion is Champion bound on the AI Player's boss.
Health: 6
Movement: Stalking mechanic - On movement the lion will move 1 hex towards the bound champion/boss per turn, and then randomly in 1D6 direction if it is not already engaged. Slowly (or perhaps quickly, depends on the rolls) closing the distance between itself and its target.

Attack: 1U 1Y
Ability: Run Down; If during the movement phase the cheetah engages an unfriendly target that already moved this turn (remember, beasts move last), it deals one damage in addition to whatever damage rolled when attacking.
Health: 3
Movement: Moves three random dice.

Attack: None. Only moves and tramples
Ability: Trample (See movement)
Health: 7
Movement: Rhino moves in a straight line 3 spaces each turn in 1D6 direction. It tramples for 2 damage any non beast in it's path. If Rhino would end it's turn in a hex that is already occupied, the token that occupied that space is pushed back 1 hex in the direction the rhino was moving. If the token cannot be pushed back (a wall) then the token is considered trampled to death and removed from play, regardless of how much health it had. If the token to be removed would be a beast, then the rhino moves as far as it can (or not at all).

Attack: Attack all surrounding hexes for 1B if adjacent to enemy at the start of its turn
Ability: Charge
Health: 8
Movement: Moves 1 hex in 1D6 direction, checks for engagements within 2 hexes and charges for 2 damage. If multiple targets are within 2 hexes, the elephant will charge the target it perceives as the bigger threat (the one with more health... elephants are smart!)

Attack: 1U
Ability: Charge/Maul
Health: 6
Movement: Roll 1D6 and move bear in that direction until he encounters a wall or an unfriendly. If he encounters a wall, end turn unless adjacent to an enemy. If he encounters an unfriendly on his path, or stops by a wall next to an unfriendly, execute Maul (roll 1U continuously tabulating hits until you roll a miss).

Nothing yet... ideas: Gore. Successful hit applies damage and condition of reducing movement of affected target.

Nothing yet... Ideas: Evasive. A successful hit against this creature from a unit with 2 or fewer movement points can never exceed 1 damage.

Description: I've debated giving both the Player and the AI Player access to a chariot gladiator, but I'm not sure that's the way to go. For now, the chariot will act somewhat indiscriminately and simply fire at the closest non champion target.
Attack: 2Y Range: 3 hexes (See Movement below)
Ability: Trample/Indiscriminate (attacks closest non champion/boss unit from any faction Player, AI Player, Beast). For every beast killed by the chariot reduce crowd favor for both Player and AI player by two.
Health: 4
Movement: The chariot moves 5 spaces per turn in a counterclockwise motion and stays in the outer most ring of the map. It tramples (and moves through) any single Player, AI Player, or Beast it encounters on it's path, and does 2 automatic damage. If two or more units of any faction are adjacent in the chariot's movement path, the chariot is destroyed.

I loathe the current scenario progression idea of 'just add more criminal/beasts for round 2 and start again'. Unfortunately, that's all we have for now. I will probably begin testing of these ideas under the following spawn assumption and then modify accordingly:
Round 1: 2 initial beasts with 3 waiting for respawn
Round 2: 3 inital beasts with 4 waiting for respawn
Round 3: 4 initial beasts with unlimited respawn

This will likely need substantial playtesting and revision. Obviously there needs to be enough beasts to go around for both teams to collect crowd favor, but not too much that both teams easily max out.

Note: I'll still be playing with the default "Criminal" and "Arena Beast" chips too. However, instead of 1 beast, we'll now have 7, and instead of 1 criminal we'll now have 5 (6 if I insert one for "Murderer" other than default) . That's a starting point, at least.

Just for clarification, I understand Hoplomachus is supposed to be a quick play game. However, fun, replayable, and quick don't need to be mutually exclusive items in game design. It's entirely likely that some of the ideas presented above are not implementation worthy, have not been thought through, or are not balanced. They may all be trash, actually. What I'm attempting to do is increase fun factor and replayability of the solo game through increased variety. If I can do this (if for no one else other than myself), then I'll consider the time put into this a success. Also, I'm fully aware that my description on some of these ideas, abilities, etc, is insufficient. Consider these items simply a brainstorm and implement, augment, or eliminate them as you see fit.

Still to be done:
- Tactics: I've barely touched these simply because they're not worthwhile in the solo player game as it exists now. However this is one area of the game that needs significant refinement. Most likely the first thing I'll (re)implement is the ability to play both tactic and gladiator on the same turn so that you can play combinations on your turn.

However, I have given some thought to new tactics:
- "Are you not entertained" - Ripped directly from Gladiator the movie. Play this tactic to taunt the crowd and they will love you for it. Immediately gain 3 crowd favor.

- Beastmaster - Play this tactic to instantly slay a beast in the arena but only if you have a ranged unit. The idea here being that a tactic should complement the gladiators you have on the field. More of these to come.

- Bosses: Bosses need more scripted events. Move + Attack or Move + Special Attack do not cut it. All bosses will start rolling 2D6 and have at least 3 scripted events (instead of 2), and at least 1 reactionary event (instead of none).

- Theme: The biggest obstacle I'm facing (outside lacking components to actually mod this game.. see next paragraph) is how to turn this into a gladiator game instead of just a 'fighting stack-of-doom poker chips' game.

There is one other significant problem with Hoplomachus. That lack of mod ability for the end user (given all attributes are printed on poker chips) is a massive deterrent for fans of the game to add any value themselves. This is somewhat shocking given in the "About Us" section on the developer's website we read the developers touting their long-held love of 'altering and modifying a game to make it more challenging or fun'. With Hoplomachus, they have produced a game that even their most die hard fan would find a significant problem in altering for the better, because I have no ability to reproduce components (like I could with a game that utilized cards). To this end, it almost makes more sense for me to produce a different PNP card-driven easily modable gladiator game with alternate mechanics. Since the poker chips are not really required for my particular variants, it may be worthwhile to do that.

So while I have been encouraged to 'come up with my own scenarios for solo play' the ability to do that, and have it vary anything other than marginally from the original bland scenario is almost non existent because the components cannot be reproduced.

Anyway, I'll still give it a go, I guess. I'll be starting my scenario with the King Python Nagaraja boss:

Rolling 2D6, here are his abilities:
2-5: Move (if applicable) to within 2 hexes (i.e. two hexes away from unfriendly) of nearest unfriendly and execute Serpent's Strike (roll 1B 1U 1Y against any single unfriendly unit within 2 hexes) Apply "Bleed" condition if you have at least 1 hit.
6-8: Move 2 hexes towards nearest unfriendly unit and execute 'Constrict' hitting all units in surrounding hexes for (2U)
9-12: Serpent Slither and do special attack (2B 1U 1Y) - Move to the nearest unfriendly unit that is at least 4 hexes away and attack that unit with special attack. Serpent Slither ignores any engagement rules that may be invoked by beasts within those 4 hexes. Apply "Bleed" with at least 1 hit result. (This one needs work. Script essentially needs to have Nagaraja moving from unit to unit and accumulating health, crowd favor, and executing things. His movement should be problematic for the Player).

Reactionary: Strike and Recoil: Applied when any adjacent unit does 3 or more damage to Nagaraja in a single roll. Execute Serpent's Strike on that unit and retreat 3 hexes in 1D6 direction. Apply "Bleed" condition if you get a hit result.

Ability: When Nagaraja eats an unfriendly unit he gains 2 life.

That's 5 abilities rather than just two and has the beast doing more than just relentlessly pursuing the champion. We'll see how it goes. The idea here is that Nagaraja is a legendary, blood thirsty, beast. As a beast, his primary objective should not be the elimination of the Player's champion, but rather the elimination of any and all unfriendly units. Nagaraja can win via elimination of the champion or mass collection of crowd favor though eating things.

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Droopy McCool wrote:
There are some very cool ideas here. I'm going to have to try these out.


Thanks! I actually have about 3x this amount written up with other ideas on expanding solo play, but my will kind of petered out given I cannot reproduce the components.

Maybe if we hollar loud enough Chip Theory will get up some blank chips to work with.

With a little variety, it could eventually be an enjoyable solo game.
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Ryan Jenkinson
United States
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I see how old this thread is but I love your ideas. I just received the base game this week, along with the 3 new addons for extra variety. I am liking the game based on my initial 2 solitaire plays but your points on the solitaire game needing more depth are spot on.

I wanted to know if you ever published any further ideas, or how these new rules have played out for you over the past year since posting. Did they help increase your interest in the game?

Or has anyone else used some of these rules with success? Any tips on applying them to solitaire play?

I also wanted to point out that their official site's store is selling blank chip packs and blank sticker templates. That might make your ideas far more accessible by actually building these creatures as chips.

Thanks (1.5 years late) for your thoughts!

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transcend11 wrote:
I see how old this thread is but I love your ideas. I just received the base game this week, along with the 3 new addons for extra variety. I am liking the game based on my initial 2 solitaire plays but your points on the solitaire game needing more depth are spot on.

I wanted to know if you ever published any further ideas, or how these new rules have played out for you over the past year since posting. Did they help increase your interest in the game?

Or has anyone else used some of these rules with success? Any tips on applying them to solitaire play?

I also wanted to point out that their official site's store is selling blank chip packs and blank sticker templates. That might make your ideas far more accessible by actually building these creatures as chips.

Thanks (1.5 years late) for your thoughts!

Hey Ryan, thanks... and sorry... Totally missed your comments until now.
I ended up with around 3-4x this amount, including a page or two of ideas that refined these ideas that never got published. It's sitting around in my office somewhere, or maybe I handed it off with my game, I cannot remember.

For solo, I thought they worked great in my own testing, especially the implementation of more bad guys. Anything to add variety would be a huge bonus to for this game. Some ideas where better than others. Some ideas didn't need to be implemented if you implemented other ideas, but it was a brainstorm after all. I did continue testing after I wrote these, and I don't recall if what is posted here actually represents the way I ended up playing the game. Probably not, given this was mostly a brainstorm that had only a little testing behind it, and it was refined a bit after I posted this. However, I haven't played this game in a long long time.

Chip Theory should have, at the time, gifted me some of those DIY kits. Clearly I was more than willing to do the testing and pass along the ideas. At this point though, it's not worth my time to invest more in the game that I think requires too much work to make it worthwhile. For $80 + DIY expense, I can buy another Gladiator game and another 1-2 solo games with a whole lot more variety, and a whole lot more fun, imo.

Hope it has worked out for you though. Not my cup of tea.
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