So far, Raz has interviewed Athena Ex and Dejun King. I'm once again taking a risk and handing the mic to Albin/Crazed Survivor/Razoupaf, a dedicated solo gamer and BGG aficionado who knows his way around solo games and the people who play them. You can find more of Raz himself at his site, Le Comboteur Fou. This week, I'm publishing his interview with Farydia, who is famous for epic Aeon's End marathons! Off we go...
It should be common knowledge now that I'm an avid Aeon's End player. Therefore, when Farydia came with a fantastic idea for a solo, single-handed marathon through all the contents of my favorite wave to date, i.e. wave 1 (Aeon's End, The Depths, The Nameless), I could but join. I played my part in recommending that she turn the thread into a Geeklist, and then I was blown away by the quality of the content.
There was flavor text. There was push-your-luck. There were side-quests. There were rewards.
And most of all, there was fun.
I managed to win the marathon with fellow humongous fan and playtester user Ruduen, piloting the very strong, borderline overpowered Z'Hana (and making my fair share of mistakes along the way).
And so I was overjoyed when Farydia came back with the War Eternal marathon, with thrice the fun and thrice the ways to play (and thrice the dead prophets too!)
Since I'm a coward, I brought to battle the ever-broken Gex, and am having as much fun, if not more, than in the first marathon, and recommending it to everyone, borderline spamming into the New Age Kickstarter campaign to be honest.
Simply put? I think the marathon is miles ahead of the official campaign variant the Aeon's End designer, Kevin Riley, has come up with. But since it's not as flexible in terms of who you face, the good news, is that both can co-exist.
Raz - Farydia, I have selected you for your Aeon's End marathons. Can you tell us a little more about you?
Farydia - Sure thing! I'm in my mid-thirties and work as an engineer in the aerospace industry. And even after more than ten years, I still love my job (with the normal ups and downs, sure), it's never boring, even though there's currently no big aircraft program in development, there's always something to do on the ones already flying. Current tragedies notwithstanding. So you might say that rules are a big part of what I do each day, even outside of boardgaming. It's a bit difficult to tell apart cause and effect here, but I'm just gonna assume that a certain affinity to problem solving and optimizing what you can do in a tightly defined ruleset both affected my choice of profession as well as my enjoyment of boardgames (and video games, too). I've been a gamer as long as I can think. I also enjoy painting miniatures (for boardgames), although I'm practically talent-free. It's become a great way to relax for me and it's fun and that's my main objective there. And thirdly, I've been an avid reader of books for just about all my life (well, minus the first 5 years, when I wasn't yet able to read, of course). I'm unmarried, but live in a happy relationship. And the best thing is that my partner also likes to play boardgames, so we can enjoy this great hobby together. He's the best kiss.
R - You have put a lot of work into each entry of the marathon, which are complete with their story text, a full market, a set of rewards for the next game, and even a Nemesis-specific reward. What inspired you to do this, and how do you work each entry out?
F - I mostly (but not exclusively) play solo games when I'm on business trips. But I'm probably not a "pure" solo gamer at heart. I like gaming to be a shared activity among many people. So I thought of a way of doing solo games together (kind of), by having other people on BGG contribute to the defense of the city of Gravehold together with me. My personal affinity to reading and stories made it easy to get into the lore of Aeon's End a bit and I enjoy writing these tiny tidbits of flavour text to set the mood for the current chapter of the Marathon. Beats writing requirements all day for sure . Another factor is, that in order to have a shared experience, while not sitting at the same table together, it is necessary to have some common elements that everyone actually shares. So this is how the set market and the rewards came into the mix.
As for the reward and market setup and design: The market I build with the randomizers, but I draw more cards than will be needed and then select cards that allow a sensible build for the round. I deliberately also leave in cards that I consider inferior, because I've seen some interesting uses and strategies I hadn't thought of before.
The reward tiers, I considered them necessary to offset a bit of the difficulty. As you will often not start the round with full health and that would quickly become a death spiral, especially as the Nemesis are getting successively harder. I usually design the rewards according to the rule that one will give Aether at the start of the game to allow a head start, one will provide some healing opportunities and one reward usually manipulates the game state in another, more freestyle way, by allowing to deal additional damage or shield or in general use abilities you otherwise do not have. All of these effects are usually one-shots, we wouldn't want the game to easy, would we?
And finally the Nemesis rewards. I have to admit, I mostly go with my gut here. I put more focus on them feeling thematic than really balancing them out. I know, their difficulty is wildly swingy, some are quite easy to obtain while others are pretty hard to pull off. The rewards I also try to tie to the Nemesis and that is my main guideline here. They often reward winning after things went really badly or reward risk taking during the game. So that is another thing I keep in mind when setting them up. I often chicken out halfway through the game when I pursue them myself ninja.
R - What was the greatest challenge you faced in crafting these marathons?
F - Hm, probably setting it up for the first time. I put a lot of time into laying down the rules in a hopefully concise way, but at the same time I didn't want to frighten people off with a wall of text. Also organizing it in the geeklist is a bit fiddly. I changed the system for the second marathon a bit, but I'm still not entirely happy with how that works. I have a spreadsheet to keep up with everything, but sifting through the entries to compile the info is still fiddly.
R - Are you working on or do you intend to work on other games in a similar fashion?
F - I've thought about it, but right now there is no other game that I enjoy enough solo to put a comparable amount of work into. I'm not ruling it out, but I'm not actively working on anything right now, no.
R - I noticed you mentioned working on something for Aeon's End: Legacy. Can you tell me more?
F - We haven't played the campaign, yet, so it's all pretty vague. But it certainly would involve the individual mages created during the Legacy campaign. I think that would be cool to have this army of unique mages to defend the City. But I wouldn't want to miss all the characters from the other games, like Garu, Brama, Sparrow, etc., so I was thinking about doing some kind of "mentor" or "sidekick" thing with them. The story would be a stronger element in a Legacy Marathon for sure. From what I've read, though, the Nemesis don't really work outside the campaign, so I would use the base game / WE Nemesis. Not all of them, that would be humongous, but probably 5 or 6. And I was thinking, to get into the Legacy spirit, that there would be more lasting effects to the game state over the Marathon. Right now, each round only has repercussions on the next round. There would certainly be elements that introduce lasting changes, but for everybody. This is different from the rewards, which are individual boosts. One thing that floats around my head for this is have an "overall" health pool for Gravehold that is gradually depleted. Yeah, sorry, it's still all pretty vague, but that's a little glimpse into what I currently have in my mind for that. Subject to change, of course .