After getting a wonderful opportunity to playtest a rather nice prototype of Dearven Traders and, after some mild suggestive “solo mind vibes”…and a few emails, I found myself also getting that wondrous chance to explore the brand spanking new early solo rules…
And so after playing and reviewing the extremely enjoyable, frustratingly tricky, mindbending puzzle like conflict in Lembitu….I finally end up bumping into Aigar from 2d6EE Games live and in the flesh at the UKGE. On the back of several more emails/messages back and forth, I finally managed to prompt him into putting pen to paper…or finger to keypad, as is more likely to be the case in this instance, to talk about his feelings of solo gaming and how it effects his Estonian gaming company…I am especially greaful for Aigar’s efforts as, being Estonian, English is not a first language! bravo!
It gives me lgreat pleasure to present…
1d6 Games by Aigar Alaveer.
When you start creating solo rules for a board game most of the time you have two different approaches: creating a puzzle (aka “beat your highest score”) or having an artificial opponent to compete with/against. The former is much easier to implement, especially if the main mechanics are worker placement or something similar, but in my opinion it’s also less rewarding for a player. At least for me personally it’s not that interesting to try to optimize my moves in order to reach a slightly better outcome than previously.
However, if the end goals have been developed further into different levels (i.e.”0-10 VP: N00b – try harder; 11-20 VP: Good – theres something in you… etc”) it’s already better as it gives incentive to try harder next time to reach the highest level.
But if you want to give the player maximum challenge, then they’d need some sort of artificial opponent, AI. These are a bit harder to create, well, unless you’re aiming for zombie-like mindless repetition. Which is good for zombie-themed games but not much for anything else. Ideally you’d like to have the rules for AI as simple as possible but at the same time keep some randomness (so that the gameplay wouldn’t still turn into solving a puzzle as what would happen if AI was 100% predictable).
I was struggling with my Dwarven Traders’ solo bot quite a lot of time as the game mechanics didn’t seem to support AI. As the game is about trading gems and the gameboard consists mostly of gems and 4 two-sided trading cards it was easy to implement some sort of rules for a bot – but a bit difficult to remove the predictability part as in the game there is no randomness. No dice, no event cards, nothing – players choose a card, do the actions, change the prices, flip the card. But suddenly I realized that Smuggler – that’s how I named the bot – could change the normal game rules a bit, being, well, a smuggler. So now each time the Smuggler activates, it doesn’t just flip the card but just remove it from the game – and new card is drawn to replace it. This ensures that player can not plan ahead 100% of their actions – just like it would be when playing against human opponent – but the change is not that large it’d prevent all the planning.
But with our latest game – 1918: Death on the Rails – applying solo rules is a bit more trickier. Being a 2-player block wargame it has additional constraints: you want to keep the fog of war (by not knowing what units you are facing and where) but at the same time expect the meaningful actions from the bot. Of course it’d be easier to implement “defend the tower” style fighting off enemy waves – but it wouldn’t be historically accurate and also would get a bit boring soon. Additionally, against human opponent you don’t know how many actions you exactly have – and if you get reaction fire and many more smaller details like that I’d like also the bot to manage successfully. And all that by keeping the bot rules as simple as possible.
I’m not going to tell it yet how we managed to do it – as the solo rules are still only being tested and they may change as a result of it – but at the moment I’m quite optimistic. At least the goal is for also solo players to face the similar (difficult) decisions as when playing against human opponents.
For me this is an exciting prospect as Death on Rails not only looks great, it is one of those wargames that just makes you want to play it because its there…If a sneaky Bot appers on the scene, then a multitude of soloists will get chance to play a really cool game of Tactical Block Warfare.
Player’s Aid Discuss Death on the Rails: