What is this game about?
Sunset Over Water, from Pencil First Games, is a game about creating art and selling it. Every day, players choose a start time, travel through beautiful landscapes (represented by gorgeously-illustrated cards), collect scenes to paint, and then attempt to meet the requirements set out by commission cards. As they move, players may choose to "paint" the landscapes they see by collecting landscape cards they have traveled through. Commission cards then allow painters to sell their work and amass victory points. There are plenty of decisions to be made as players try to beat each other to the most desirable nature scenes, strategically choose commissions to fulfill, and compete for "daily goal" cards that add extra opportunities to gain points.
The cards in Sunset Over Water are gorgeous, but pay attention to more than just the art—each card has a symbol or symbols on it that can help you meet the demands of commission cards. The symbols on a player's leftover cards can also be converted to victory points at a rate of two to one at the end of the game.
How does it play solo?
Sunset Over Water has an in-box solo mode designed by Keith Matejka, who also designed the solitaire variant for Herbaceous. The one-player version of Sunset Over Water is a beat-your-own-score challenge that is similar to the main game, with some key differences. In the multiplayer game, landscapes are replenished at the end of each round. In the solo game, however, players can only replace landscape cards by choosing certain start times or by moving through "ranger station" cards in the play area. This means that movement needs to be planned strategically—you should wait to replenish cards until doing so will actually benefit you, but you also don't want to risk wasting a turn because there aren't enough landscapes left to paint. Choosing later start times can also cause you to lose valuable commissions, so there are several interesting choices to make. Will you play a card that gives you better options for movement and painting acquisition? Or are you trying to complete a particular commission card that you can't afford to lose?
The solo variant of Sunset Over Water is delightful. You have engaging decisions to make, and you make them against a beautiful and calming backdrop, thanks to Beth Sobel's excellent artwork. Some players do not enjoy beat-your-own-score solo games, but I like this one. I really enjoy plotting my movements, scheming to pick up commission cards, and trying to make the optimal moves given the information I have at any particular time.
Do I recommend it?
Yes, I recommend Sunset Over Water for solo play. It's beautiful, calming, and thought-provoking enough to provide a satisfying solo experience. It also clocks in at only 20 minutes or so, which makes it ideal for work night or lunch break gaming.
Overall Rating: 3.5 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.