Due to reasons, I’ve been playing a lot of solo games in recent months. Here’s what is currently on my dining table (or close to it anyway).
The oldest one of these games is Sprawlopolis a small city building game that gives me 3 different scoring goals each time I play and just 18 cards total. It’s what I might play in the morning half awake. It fits into a pocket and is one of the most played games in my whole collection.
The puzzle is fascinating and a win is never assured although some goals are easier than others to achieve.
Fairy Trails only joined the fray last summer but it is a neat little push your luck meets route building game that would play 2 but is much better as a solo puzzle. Like Sprawlopolis it has almost no setup time and it is impossible to forget the rules–they are so simple. Just place a card and see if the path is closed then place the markers. I’ve lost this one quite a bit, it remains a challenge.
Next up: Sub Terra. This is a cooperative game of escaping from a cavern full of horrors which can easily be soloed by one person simply playing all 4 survivors. The four survivors start on the starting tile and then get to choose between careful or brash exploring while navigating poisonous gas, cave-ins, flooding and the occasional monster hunting them. At least half the survivors must escape to win the game. Every turn the cave grows larger and the exit is hidden at the bottom of the stack of tiles somewhere. Dead-ends prevent further exploring and it is a really bad idea to go off alone somewhere. This one takes a bit of time to set up the tile stack and the deck of events that the survivors have to deal with and then it takes about 60 minutes to play. We have lost this more than we have won this. Building up the cave from the tiles involves interesting decisions and is quite satisfiying. There are a bunch of expansions and a second game but this is just the base game and it will last me a while.
Another one that only arrived quite recently is Flourish. This is a multiplayer (1 to 6) drafting game in which each player strives to build the most beautiful garden from their cards. I bought this one for the setting and the variable number of players and the inclusion of a cooperative variant. The solo-mode on this one is well done and makes the drafting into a smart puzzle.
The game needs just a little bit of setup and takes about 30 minutes to play solo. It is played over 4 rounds in which each player gets to play 3 cards. The first 3 rounds have 3 turns each in which you select a card from your hand to play to the garden and pass one card to your left and one to your right neighbor (or two to the other player if playing with 2 or the bot). Then cards with immediate scoring get scored, everyone takes the cards they were passed and draws another from the deck. There is a bunch of endgame scoring and a variant with little pavillions that add a spatial element to your garden building. Scoring is based on set collection for the most part.
In a solo-game the bot has their own card stack and simply plays the top card each round and passes the next two cards to the player and then the cards the player passed get mixed into the bot deck. So the cards pass back and forth and it pays to keep an eye on the bot’s random garden so as not to accidentally give them a lot of points. It Isn’t terribly hard to win against the bot but so far, I have only managed a bronze ribbon. We have also enjoyed the cooperative variant in which all the gardens score together to reach a number of points.
Last but certainly not least, my currently favorite puzzle: making a blanket for your cat or Calico. This is for 1-4 players who like pattern matching hex tiles into a small grid according to scoring rules determined by what cats are in the house (and the scoring markers you chose). So far though I have only once strayed from the beginner setup and it was my worst score yet. Setup time is quick and play takes probably around 20-30 minutes.
There are six colors and six different patterns in the game and each turn you put 1 tile onto any space your your beautiful double-layered board. If you complete a group of three of the same color you get a button. If you manage to complete a group of the same pattern you invite a cat (the patterns are randomly assigned to the cats at the start and the starter cats are just happy with a number of tiles, the more advanced ones also want the tiles in a certain pattern–all in a row for example). After placing a tile, take a new one from the “market”. As an added source of points there are three scoring tiles (which can be turned around for a kid friendly version). The ones seen above are again the starting tiles with the “easiest” set of conditions to score points from them. Each tile asks for a certain arrangement in the adjacent tiles which can be completed either by color or by pattern (bonus points if you manage both). The solo is simply playing for a high score and taking the left most tile out of the market each turn. The tile placing is quite satisfying and the puzzle an unexpected brain-burner, who thought cats were this complicated?
Another solo-game that has a lot of potential only just arrived yesterday and I already put up a few notes about Red Rising.