As always, there are several board games of interest to solo gamers on Kickstarter! Let's sample a few for the week!
1. The Clowdus Collection: Neolithic
Kolossal Games is currently republishing a set of games designed by John Clowdus, including Merchants of Muziris, Keep, and Neolithic. Of the three, Neolithic has solo mode (it is for 1–2 players). In this game, your goal is to build up a neolithic Village. Mechanically, the game is a mixture of hand building, worker placement, and deployment of multi-use cards. At 30 minutes, it is also quick-playing, which should suit solo gamers who are looking for a quick work night game.
2. Dark Rituals: Malleus Maleficarum
On the other end of the spectrum, Dark Rituals is a $100 big-box game packed with miniatures. This one is an asymmetric "one vs. all" game that also includes a solo mode. In the multiplayer version of the game, the heroes' goal is to defend a town from a coven of witches, while one player takes on the role of Witch Master. In solo mode, you are the Witch Master battling against game-controlled heroes—a potentially interesting twist, given that usually AI controls the overlord and makes the solo player pilot multiple heroes.
3. Parks: The Board Game
Parks is actually a board game about hikers who are enjoying America's national parks and collecting memories of their experiences. You can improve your equipment to hike more efficiently, but your main goal will be to take the best collection of photographs. In the solo mode, you'll be sharing the trail with Rangers who are there to take care of the park. But while the Rangers are helpful and necessary to park upkeep, they will also act as your timer, because the season ends when they finish maintaining the trail! This game is committed to celebrating national parks, and some of its proceeds will be donated to the National Park Service.
A new year of Kickstarter campaigns is in full swing now, including several that are of possible interest to solo players.
1. Suburbia Collector's Edition
Suburbia is an award-winning game about laying tiles and building up a city, and it is a well-loved game. The collector's edition has redone art, very nice storage inserts, and premium components to enhance gameplay. This edition will also include all expansions for the game, so you're getting everything all in one fancy package. Suburbia does include solo play against "Dale the Bot." If you're interested, this is a good moment to pick up a revamped classic.
2. Gardens of Babylon: The Cascading Tile Laying Game
Gardens of Babylon combines tile laying and worker movement as players compete to plant the hanging gardens, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Players will attempt to score points by planting seeds in valuable locations. There is even a cascade mechanic that, when deployed wisely, allows you to change the entire board state as you pursue victory. This game is easy to learn, but with a number of different garden tiles and strategies to try, promises replayability as well.
3. Invasions: Vol. 1
Invasion is a game about competing to build up a successful empire during the "Dark Ages," from the latter days of the Roman Empire up until the beginning of the Muslim conquests. This game added a pack of solo cards as an expansion. I am a bit suspicious of stretch goal solo modes, but if you're interested in sweeping historical games, this one might be worth a look.
Late December isn't the wildest time on Kickstarter, but there are some interesting projects out there to peruse! If you're looking to get yourself a little something for Christmas, you won't have to look too far.
Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age
If you're in the market for an interesting roll and write, then Eagle-Gryphon Games has your back--Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age is a sequel to RTtA: Bronze Age, and it's being reprinted as a nice bookshelf edition. Interestingly, this Kickstarter campaign includes a number of different games, so if Roll Through the Ages isn't your thing, you can look at The Plutonian, Karesansui, Morocco, Wombat Rescuer, and more. In fact, if you're interested in picking up the entire bookshelf series, here is your chance. I don't think I've seen a Kickstarter campaign quite like this one. Probably the most interesting thing about this KS campaign, however, is that the games are already printed and on the boat, so you can expect February delivery.
Castle Itter: The Strangest Battle of WWII
Dan Verssen Games' campaign for Castle Itter: The Strangest Battle of WWII will be active for only 4 more days, so if you want this one, jump on quick! Like its predecessor, Pavlov's House (which is getting a ton of buzz), this game is about being trapped in a building and holding out against the Germans against brutal odds. If you are looking for a solitaire game rooted in real history, with brutal survival situations and interesting decisions to be made. I wish this one were happening after Christmas, so I'd have a better chance of being able to back it!
I'm not sure what to think of Cultistorm, which bills itself as "more than an ordinary board game" and is "an expression of our respect and love for Lovecraft." I like a good Mythos game as much as anyone, but I feel uncomfortable with the idea of too much respect and love for a flagrant racist (and pretty blah writer, in my opinion). This is apparently a sprawling cooperative game, initially for 3–5 players, but there are nine expansions planned as stretch goals for the campaign, as well as books of flash fiction and a soundtrack. It seems like a whole lot is going on with Cultistorm. It's definitely going to fund, but I'm personally giving it a pass.
Merry Christmas! Hope you don't have to buy gifts for anyone else in your life, because you'll definitely want to buy several for yourself if Kickstarter keeps going like this. Let's get down to business.
I did not give Ragusa a second thought until this weekend, when Jeremy Howard from Jambalaya Plays Games taught me to play it at PAXU. I am so glad he did, because I enjoyed the hell out of this game. Ragusa is a euro-style city builder, but it's not quite like any other game I have ever played. You place buildings and get resources, but there are a ton of fascinating mechanics that spice it up. Depending on where you place buildings, you can collect up to three different resources, as well as trigger opponent actions—or enjoy the benefits when they place buildings and help you! There are also secret objectives that give you special goals in the game, and extra ways to score. I haven't gotten to play a game solo, but I spent some time checking out the solo AI cards, and what I see is really promising. I will go out of my way to back this one.
2. Nemo's War: Bold & Caring and Dramatis Personae Expansions
If you like Nemo's War, rejoice! There are a couple of expansion packs to add a little extra spice to an already-good game. Get some new game-changing motives for Captan Nemo, as well as some new adventures to experience. Also, if you still don't own a copy of the base game, it's possible to pick it up by pledging to this campaign. The expansions are reasonably priced ($12 for the two new ones), so if you're already a fan of Nemo's War, this is an easy back.
3. Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon
This campaign doesn't actually hit KS until December 5, but there is a preview page that I've linked to in this post. If you're looking for another big box campaign game with a lot of miniatures, this one might be for you. Your campaign can have several different endings, and you'll be able to develop your characters across several play sessions. Also, Adam Smith of Rolling Solo has some gameplay videos out on YouTube, so you can see it for yourself.
This October is an intense month for Kickstarter, especially because so many of these projects are games that I already know and love, or from designers/publishers whose work I enjoy. I hope for a quiet holiday season, since my Christmas gift budget is already in grave danger...
1. Spirit Island: Jagged Earth
I previewed Jagged Earth last week, but I want to mention it here as well--Spirit Island is one of my favorite games, and one of the few I have reviewed on this site to receive a five-star rating from me. If you already like Spirit Island, this expansion is a no-brainer, with more spirits and also cards that allow you to play old spirits in new ways. Additionally there are new island tiles, new adversaries, and new scenarios—in other words, more ways to keep spicing up an already-excellent game. Two thoughts: 1) You need to have both Spirit Island and the first expansion, Branch and Claw, to enjoy Jagged Earth. 2) If you need to wait for retail rather than back now, I think it's totally fine to do so—this is not the kind of game that won't be available on store shelves after it goes to KS backers.
2. Street Masters: Aftershock
Street Masters: Rise of the Kingdom has indeed risen into my personal Top 20 solo games. It's an arcade-style beat-'em-up with interesting levels, fighters with different playstyles, and a modular deck system influenced by another favorite game of mine, Sentinels of the Multiverse. My original review of Street Masters is here, and as you can see, I am a pretty big fan. Aftershock promises even more—more fighters, more enemies, more scenarios... I can't wait! No game is for everybody, and Street Masters gets a little cramped at higher player counts. All the same, I think every solo player should at least give this one a look.
3. The Romans: Kingdom—Republic—Empire!
The Latin teacher in me just can't resist having a look at this one. The Romans is being billed as the final game designed by the Ragnar Brothers, and it promises what looks like an especially solo-friendly experience. It's a combination of worker placement and area control, but each player has his or her own individual Roman Empire board to develop. There is also an AI system in place to simulate enemies fighting back as Rome expands. Players will need to shepherd their empires through multiple eras and developments, and increasingly powerful buildings, leaders, and abilities will become available as the game progresses. If you like games with historical themes, this one looks fun—the art is lighthearted, and who doesn't love the Romans? Also interesting is that this campaign is not offering stretch goals. The Ragnar Brothers have made the best game they can possibly make, and they stand by it as-is. I find that refreshing after so much Kickstarter craziness this month.
This week, there are a few interesting-looking solo-playable games on Kickstarter to talk about, but I've still got my eye on mid-October. By the time the middle of the month hits, we'll be getting blasted by so many awesome-looking campaigns that I am legitimately worried I won't be able to back something I really want. Budget carefully, my friends.
1. The Artemis Project
The Artemis Project is a game about colonizing Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. At its heart, this in engine building game, as players are trying to build the most powerful engine and thus the most successful colony. Europa is rich in resources if you know how to get at them. The main mechanic of Artemis Project is dice placement—place your dice cleverly, and you will yield the best results. The rules of this game are still subject to last-minute development/polishing, but Jeremy from Jambalaya Plays Games recently published an overview of the solo mode to YouTube. There are only about 4 days left in this campaign, so act fast if you want it!
2. Viceroy: Times of Darkness
Yet another Viceroy campaign is on Kickstarter, so if you're a fan of the game, rejoice! It hasn't pulled me in yet, but the art looks great, and it's clear this game is getting a lot of support from its publisher. This particular expansion is of note because it features revised rulesets for 1 and 2 players, so if you're into Viceroy and you're into solo gaming, it's clear you are being catered to in this campaign.
3. Heroes of Tenefyr
Heroes of Tenefyr is a cooperative deck building game, one that claims it can be taught in about 5 minutes. In my opinion, that's usually a good thing for a board game. In Heroes of Tenefyr, players will enter dungeons and resolve combat situations using a push-your-luck combat system. As you defeat enemies and clear dungeons, you will acquire coveted loot. But as you keep drawing cards from your deck to favorably resolve combat, you'll get into situations where you need to rest and recover expended cards—a move that brings a big boss closer to attacking you. It seems like a flexible and potentially fun mashup of deck builder and dungeon crawl, and it's only about $20 (...plus $9 shipping to the U.S.). If you like to support first-time Kickstarter publishers, then this is your chance--Heroes of Tenefyr is Broken Mill's first KS project.
Hey there solo gamers! As usual, Kickstarter has some interesting projects for you to look at—but hold on to your wallets, because there are some big projects coming in October that threaten to put us all in the poorhouse.
1. Lockup: A Roll Player Tale
I'm very curious about this one. Lockup is a worker placement game designed by Keith Matejka and set in the Roll Player universe. The premise is that you control a prison gang that is trying to amass power and influence, with the ultimate goal of winning a chance at freedom by being chosen to fight in the colosseum. You'll have to hire crew and build powerful items—but you'll also have to make sure not to alert the prison guards to your illicit activities. I love this theme! Way to make worker placement exciting again.
2. Set a Watch
Set a Watch is a cooperative puzzle game in which you and your friends try to protect nine seals—seals that hold back the Unhallowed—and prevent the world from being overrun by evil. In addition to tracking down and fighting evil, you'll need to manage your resources as you camp all over the countryside. This is definitely a puzzly one, so if you are into fantasy-themed puzzle games, this one might be worth a look.
3. The Stygian Society
This one is a cooperative dungeon crawl designed by Kevin Wilson (Descent, Arkham Horror...) and deliberately constructed to encourage cooperation among players. A large part of the game is sacrificing yourself to help boost others, which ought to be strategically and thematically interesting. The game is set in 1800s Austria, and heroes will fight their way, floor by floor, to the top of a wizard's tower.
October is bringing with it some wallet-destroying Kickstarter campaigns, but in the mean time, there are some interesting September projects that are currently active on KS!
1. Everdell: Pearlbrook
I didn't back Everdell the first time around, but the game was delivered promptly, turned out beautifully, and I'm hearing a lot of good things about it from solo players. It's definitely one of the prettiest games I've seen, and it seems like an enjoyable combination of tableau building and worker placement. I also love that the game has an AI opponent, which prevents it from becoming a beat-your-own-score game and allows the game to put up a bit of a fight against you. The Pearlbrook expansion will take the game beyond the forest and add some seriously adorable river creatures. Money is tight for me right now, but I have my eye on this one.
2. Tiny Epic Mechs
If you're a fan of Tiny Epic games, then there's another one out and awaiting your support. Expect mechs with ITEMeeples, action programming, and lots of combat. The deluxe edition of the game is only $25, which is extremely reasonable. The current KS videos and rules do NOT include information about solo play, but Gamelyn Games has traditionally supported solo gamers, and Michael Coe has announced that a solo version of the game is in development.
3. Warfighter Modern — Shadow War
I have been itching to play Warfighter for a long time now, and this does look really good. This Warfighter game will pit U.S. soldiers against North Korean enemies, and you will need to choose the best soldiers and gear for the job as you complete the game's missions. It looks great, and I'd be very interested in backing the base game at $60—EXCEPT that I have some issues with the way this Kickstarter is being run. At the $60 pledge level, you can purchase add-ons but you do not get stretch goals. If you want stretch goals, you have to back at the next pledge level to the tune of $110. That is a HUGE jump, and I can't say that I consider that good Kickstarter practice. Companies want to make money, I know, but I wouldn't want to back a game and then feel "not good enough" to get stretch goals.
Hey solo gamers! There are plenty of projects to admire on Kickstarter this week, including a couple that I'll be backing myself.
1. Football Highlights 2052
If you have been reading my site for a while, you know that I love a game called Baseball Highlights 2045. Now there is a Football Highlights 2052 from the same designer, and I am all over it. Cyborg football players? Drafting your dream team? Quick and clever cardplay? Football Highlights 2045 will include all of these things, and while I am looking forward to playing it two-player, I also trust Mike Fitzgerald to have a solid solo mode for this game. And at $33 for the base game, the price is right.
2. Draconis Invasion: Wrath
I haven't played this deck builder myself, but I have heard plenty of buzz about it. Draconis: Invastion is a fantasy deck building game that is raising money for a reprint as well as for an expansion. You (and up to 5 other people) will need to fend off the forces of evil, while also managing fear and fatigue. From what I can tell, Draconis: Invasion is a pretty typical deck builder with a nice fantasy theme. If you're into that sort of thing, it's probably a good one to look into.
3. Machina Arcana: From Beyond
Cooperative steampunk horror dungeon crawl. If that sounds like your sort of thing, then Machina Arcana is for you. The core game is $50, and the premium one is $75. I will be honest, I don't personally see anything in it to make it different from all of the other dungeon crawls sitting on my shelf that offer campaign play and that never see enough table time. But if you particularly dig steampunk themes, this may scratch an itch that all of the fantasy games out there can't quite reach.
After a couple of low-excitement weeks, Kickstarter is picking back up. Hold onto your butts—especially if you keep your wallet in your back pocket!
1) Pax Pamir, 2nd ed.
Pax Pamir is a game set in Afghanistan and that focuses on Afghan struggles for power after the fall of the Durrani Empire. It's semi-cooperative: Players will need to work together towards common goals, but there is only one winner. Ricky Royal designed the original solo mode, and will also be working on the solo variant for the new edition of this game, which automatically catches my interest. The second edition of Pax Pamir is also supposed to be much more streamlined than the original. Cole Werhle, who is also the designer of Root and John Company, has made it clear that he is revisiting one of his earlier designs and applying what he's learned over the years. I'm interested in this one, and would have already gone for it if the price weren't so high. (Think $70, dang.)
2) A Thief's Fortune
A Thief's Fortune is a card drafting/engine building game that involves both thievery and time travel, as well as a cool Aladdin vibe. Each player in a multiplayer game represents a different possible future of the same character, which is conceptually quite interesting. The solo version of A Thief's Fortune involves pursuing specific achievements within a solo game. Slickerdrips has a nice playthrough on the KS page, and I generally like his taste in games. And at $36, the price is right for this game. (Although shipping will run you an additional $10.)