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Thebes» Forums » Variants

Subject: SoloPlay variant for Thebes is now available rss

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SoloPlayGames
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This thread describes/discusses the design and development of the Thebes SoloPlay variant.

The download is available using the following link(s):
Thebes SoloPlay Rules

This file is #39 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 exceeds the play level of the original.

Preface:
Thebes was bought a number of years ago at an Atlanta flea market for $15. I was reluctant to buy the game due to the randomness of the “dig” mechanic but in the end found it to be thematic and simple enough to be a family game. I have played it with the wife and my kids a handful of times but just once with the game group. The interest was a little lower than I thought it might be.

This is where problems began to arise for multi-player play. It always seemed that you “should” play the game a certain way and deviating from this, if the other players don’t, is a recipe for a game loss. It seems to play out the same each time as you build up 2-3 colors and go for these massive digs and then collect senate cards and maybe a one-off exhibition and the game ends. The order might change a bit but it didn’t make much difference.

I don’t think that the game has been played in over a year. Many times last year as I was working on my other projects I would pull the game off of the shelf and play through some solo ideas. It was then that I felt that this was likely going to be the way that the game is going to be played for the rest of its game life. There were a number of iterations that came and went but I would get stuck with the random draw and how to resolve this.

The night came when I turned the game on its head and found my solution. There is much more strategy than there has ever been before and the luck of the draw “while still there” has been pushed back into the background a little bit. Playing the odds is much more important.

SoloPlay Thebes Design Comments:
As I noted in my preface, unless I was able to mitigate the random draws to a satisfactory degree I would not find the strategic game that I was looking for. One that would find me coming back to it over and over to try and do just a little bit better.

The magic solution came with “knowledge” payments. In retrospect it was such a simple idea but made a tremendous effect on the game play. I found myself trying to determine if I wanted to make my dig in the first year or to continue to build up until the 2nd year and then try and get the digs completed before time ran out.

The way that this payment works is that at the end of each year (you will play 2) you must “pay” for every artifact that you collected with the books that you used. If you could draw 1 high value tile you would only have to pay 1 book but if you draw 4 little artifacts you have to pay 4 books. In this way you might need to build up again to get a second dig in an area. Taking cards in the second year was just as important as the first. In multi-player play I found that to be unnecessary unless trying to get more senate cards.

That was all well and good but what stops you from getting everything that you want? I have instituted a new type of AI that I refer to as a “pacing collective”. The AI is made up of 2 colors which feed the same tableau. All artifacts gained by both colors are grouped together. The only tricks were to determine when the AI would dig, attend an exhibition and gain cards.

All of this happened long ago as the AI will primarily take a card from the display (clockwise, giving you an important decision) and if certain cards were taken the AI would dig or if collected the right artifacts in the current year would go to an exhibition. What is important here is that you have a strong measure of control. Overaggressive play might be punished harshly. Sending the AI off to dig when the gain might be just over its threshold might buy you a little time to do something better etc.

As the variant developed it was noted that the deck paced itself beautifully to the 2 year play time. This balanced well with the solo mechanics and gave the right amount of tension to hurry up and get things done. There is no reshuffle.

As I attempted the various methods of play I noted that all of them had viability as long as you didn’t specialize too much (overcommit early is bad). For example, going strong after a single color seemed a bit weak unless you had exhibition and senate support which is easier said than done. I tried going full senate, dig early, make big digs go for the game end majorities and found that they all are viable methods depending on how the game develops. You can’t just go in with, “I am going to do this, again”, and get the same result.

There certainly is frustration when you can’t quite get that extra knowledge card because you are running out of time and have to decide whether to just make the small dig and hope to make it worthwhile. The trick is that if you have to pay books you might lose a majority (-5) and this might not be offset with the artifact gain. Balance and playing the odds is important.

Goal of the rule design
1. Reduce randomness
2. Add a strategic element
3. Produce more decision points (less going through the motions)
4. Ensure that the variant is balanced to ensure that one method does not rule them all

Comments are always welcome.

Strategies:
1. This is a tactical game where each situation must be carefully considered and balanced with the time remaining.
2. Controlling the “collective” actions is imperative. If you only play your color, it will likely not lead to success.
3. The knowledge payment should factor into each dig that you perform and weighed against a possible knowledge majority that you might gain at game end.
4. Keep your options open or get to Warsaw and flush the display to get some better choices.
5. Timing your actions to fit with the situation is important to gain an edge on the “collective”.

Final Thoughts

Setup time: about 5+ minutes
Play time: about 45-90 minutes


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.

SoloPlay Motto:
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.
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Dan C
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I started this today and got stuck and couldn't figure rules out for this situation:

Step 3aii occurred (card display empty) and it was the AI turn. There are no exhibitions, so I go to 3b "AI makes a dig."

At Step 3bi. "Determine the total knowledge that the AI has in the region(color)... "

Stuck. What color? How do I determine the color he digs in? All I know is it has to be one he'll draw at least 3disks in. But which of those? Can't find in rules.
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SoloPlayGames
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jedimusic wrote:
I started this today and got stuck and couldn't figure rules out for this situation:

Step 3aii occurred (card display empty) and it was the AI turn. There are no exhibitions, so I go to 3b "AI makes a dig."

At Step 3bi. "Determine the total knowledge that the AI has in the region(color)... "

Stuck. What color? How do I determine the color he digs in? All I know is it has to be one he'll draw at least 3disks in. But which of those? Can't find in rules.

Sorry Dan, i was not subscribed to the thread. This has been fixed.

To your point, yikes!!

The mention is in the section before 3.a.i.1 stating:
... the AI will consider making a dig at the city matching the top permission tile (during setup you built a tile stack from its 5 tiles).

After the dig is completed the permission tile is turned face down and the next top tile is the next location that the AI will dig from etc. This is reset at the end of the year per 4.c.i.

This warrants a file update. I will get on it and upload v2 today.
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Dan C
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Thanks got the reply! Look forward to trying again with the clarification. Thanks again for your generosity with sharing these variants with us
 
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Roger S
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Hi SoloPlay,
Yet another great variant and this was another game I purchased based on the fact that it already had a SoloPlay ruleset. I have yet to play it multi-player in my group (and I'm still on the fence as to whether or not I will introduce it.)

I'm in the midst of my first solo game and only one question so far which I can't see addressed in the rules. What does the AI do with the card that permits another dig in the same year?

Edit: fix typo
 
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Roger S
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Because I can never ask only one question:

2. How does the AI choose which exhibition to attend?

3. At the end of the game, and last point in the scoring, it says: "Compare the final score markers". What is this? Are we supposed to score the AI player as well (per normal rules) and then compare to our score?

 
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Roger S
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schiavonir wrote:

3. At the end of the game, and last point in the scoring, it says: "Compare the final score markers". What is this? Are we supposed to score the AI player as well (per normal rules) and then compare to our score?


In the header of the scoring section: "Score each category for both you and the AI". Got it.
 
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schiavonir wrote:
Hi SoloPlay,
Yet another great variant and this was another game I purchased based on the fact that it already had a SoloPlay ruleset. I have yet to play it multi-player in my group (and I'm still on the fence as to whether or not I will introduce it.)

I'm in the midst of my first solo game and only one question so far which I can't see addressed in the rules. What does the AI do with the card that permits another dig in the same year?

Edit: fix typo

Nothing, it will not use the card and it will be discarded at the end of the year.
 
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schiavonir wrote:
Because I can never ask only one question:

2. How does the AI choose which exhibition to attend?


You choose.
 
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