Continuing the run-down of the Box of Delights top 100 solo games, and things are getting real tough. Every game from here on in is a real winner. Putting an order on them has been very tough. I know the top, I know the bottom, but this middle section has been tricky.
Here are the final choices for #70-61….
BOX OF DELIGHTS TOP 100 SOLO BOARD GAMES
70. Dark Dealings (Nevermore Games)
This is a very fun little solo game. I may have jumped the gun on it a little bit, as it hasn’t been made available for general release yet, but it funded successfully on KS in the summer, heading for a Dec 2015 release. But I included it in the list because, although there are plenty of other great solo games funded via Kickstarter, this is one that I think the soloist can get something a little different from. Many soloists are looking for a game that has a small footprint, plays quickly, but has strategy to get your mind working. This is Dark Dealings. It is a card game of two phases, kind of like Finnish Dog (or Koira): a phase where you are drafting and bidding to win cards to use in the 2nd phase; and a 2nd phase that has you fighting to beat the AI opponent using the cards you won in phase 1. The two phases balance beautifully, because if you bid higher to win the best cards in phase 1, then you end up with more difficult opponents to beat in round 2. It’s a lovely little hand management game that I highly recommend.
69. Frontier Stations (Victory Point Games)
I may have mentioned VPG already – they do like to give us solitaire games! This time we have a co-op, which plays 3-6, so you will have to do some multiple hand-management. But with this game it is minimal, though it does take up quite a bit of room. I play with 3. What I like about this one is that it takes a new twist on the deck-builder idea. You will be upgrading, not a deck, but your space station using cards. In other words your station is your “deck” if you like. But, and here’s the catch, the deck is not drawn from. No, your deck is small, and all those cards are available to you at all times (hence the larger footprint). Instead those cards are charged up and used by placing and removing tokens from them. Your enemy are space invaders, and you will be using your station cards’ resources to keep them at bay, as well as to buy new upgrades. So you can see it has the traditional problems delivered by a deck-builder, but in a completely new format. Great stuff VPG!!
68. 51st State (Portal)
51st State is one of my favourite 2-player card games. Forget LCGs and TCGs, 51st State delivers a wonderful conflict of grey-matter. If I were to drop a top-10 list of 2-player games on you, then this would be on it. New Era develops the game further, by adding more conflict between the two players, as you can attack and destroy each others locations. But for me, 51st State remains the crown-jewel. I also prefer the tokens to the upgraded wooden pieces you’ll find in the New Era box (personal taste!).
So what about solitaire? Well, Ignacy Trzewiczek, Portal’s man at the helm, has developed an “official” solo variant, that has you amassing as many victory points as possible in a limited amount of time, as per the Winter expansion. It’s akin to Imperial Settlers, which is the follow-up game based on the same mechanics (except that Imperial Settlers has a solo variant right there in the box, supplemented with an AI opponent). A huge thank-you to Ignacy for giving us a way to sharpen our teeth solo!
67. Sentinels of the Multiverse (Greater Than Games)
I may get a bit of flack for this one. Not for putting it on the list, but for not placing it higher. SotM is a unique looking, highly stylised game. It took me a while to get used to the style and the fonts, but once you get into playing the game the artwork immerses you into its comic-book world, and you’ll feel like you’re playing out a battle straight from the pages of bumper edition. One of the best things I like about the game is the way it throws in a mix of environments. So not only are you playing a variable selection of heros against a randomly chosen villain, you’ll be acting out this battle in a random setting, from a pre-historic world populated by dinosaurs, to some futuristic metropolis policed by machines. Each hero, each villain, and each location is represented by its own unique deck of cards. There’s no deck-construction, deck-building or drafting – you play with the cards given by the deck. But the variability comes from the mixture of decks you choose to play, the associated difficulty of each deck, and then strategise according to how those decks interact with each other. The only problem for me, and why it doesn’t get as much table-time as others higher up on this list (though my card box is jammed full of expansions), is because it can be quite hard work keeping the book-keeping of playing a minimum of three heros simultaneously. There is an App you can use to assist you, but I’m not a fan of managing things in an app. Indeed, the fact that there is an app is testament to the trickiness with the book-keeping. If you play with this in mind, knowing what to expect, then you can prepare for it. It’s worth it, the gameplay is really neat, but I recommend using the same set of three Heros, get to know them well, before dismissing the game without a victory…
66. Bullfrogs (Thunderworks Games)
Bullfrogs is a treat for the strategist. If you like abstracts, and enjoy a puzzle, then the solo variant will give you lots of pleasure. The artwork is a joy, and like all good abstracts, the atomic rules are simple but their application can be a real brain-teaser. The solitaire expansion is a separate product, with a rule-sheet and two custom dice, and was only released this year.
You could proxy the dice, but the expansion is very inexpensive and the custom dice are very well made and great to look at, so I would recommend picking up the little expansion as soon as you can.It hasn’t got much attention, which is crazy as it’s wonderful for the soloist. Perhaps it is because of its roots in the abstract(?) – not sure. But, the artwork is beautiful, and the theme does shine through as you bob about on the lilly-pads as they float and sink as your frogs leap around the pond doing battle against the AI. Please do give it a try. If nothing else you’ll get lots of fun out of saying “frog on a log” a hundred times!
65. Space Infantry (Lock ‘n Load Publishing)
Space Infantry is a game I first enjoyed as a print & play, published over on BGG. You’ve missed your chance now, as it’s been picked up by a publisher, but do go and check it out. With a player count of just 1, it was designed specifically for the soloist. You know you are getting something made just for you, not a variant or after-thought. It’s a squad-based tactical game, with a whole heap of missions to run through, each with their own nuances and most suitable characters. It’s very satisfying, and one of the best print & plays I ever enjoyed (possibly THE best). Go and check out the video by Marco Arnaudo and he’ll explain better than I can why this was so good! It connects very well to the theme, a space sci-fi that has you feeling the desolation of a group of explorers stuck in desperate locations. And it has everything you would expect: variable maps, a selection of different units with different skills that you can take into the mission as part of your squad, different enemies to fight against, and lots of dice-tossing to see you through the game. Simple rules, with a good layer of depth and re-playability. Too much fun !
64. D-Day Dice (Valley Games)
Another game that was originally a print & play but that is now a well established published game for the soloist. A WWI or WWII game is a rare thing on this list, primarily because games in this setting are more usually competitive, player-versus-player.
This one plays really well, and I love chucking dice. Sometimes you just need that, to give your brain a bit of a rest and let fate have her way with you. Take me to a casino and I’ll be heading for the Craps table! Although on paper there appears to be a big disconnect from the theme (you are using the dice Yahtzee-style to make better plays), once you get into the game, and start picking up upgrades to be able to mitigate some of the poor rolls, you’ll feel the tension of seeing your troops making that dash up the beaches, taking out bunkers, navigating machine-gun fire and barbed-wire fences on the way. D-Day Dice is almost a perfect die-roller. I love the theme, I love the way you use your dice to advance your troops up each map, I love the small footprint, and the luck of the rolls. The only thing that lets it down for me is having to manage the few decks of cards. These don’t make the game a bad game, not in the slightest, because they are important to upgrading your troops, your command over them, and to mitigate those die-rolls. I just wish they had been represented by extra dice instead, giving us a pure die-roller. That would have been a little more perfect. I reach for this game when I want some quick and easy die-rolling with a whole heap of tactics thrown in. The cards just mean I reach for it a little less often….
Another print & play! It was pure co-incidence that we have three games in a row here that came from the print & play world. Of the three, though, this is the only one that remains unpublished, but man it should be! I discovered Blood Rush via the 1 Player Guild on BGG (what do you mean you are not a member?!). I was really impressed by the design. It is only a handful of cards and you’ll need a couple of dice, but the challenge it gives you is a delight. This time you play the bad guys, and your job is to chomp your way through the villagers like only a vampire with a thirst for blood can. A nice little twist to set the scene, and some simple game-play that presents tough choices at every play. I highly recommend this one. If it ever gets picked up by a publisher then they will have a lot of fun developing more variety into this wonderfully balanced solitaire micro-game.
62. Snowdonia (Surprised Stare)
If you’re a fan of the UK gaming scene then Tony Boydell will be no stranger to you. The eccentric designs and imaginative themes are testament to the passion that shines through his work and that of his creative partners. Snowdonia is no exception. It plays very well solitaire, as you race to build a railway line from the foot of mount Snowdon, to her summit. You’ll be managing resources, navigating the weather, and racing against the board, not quite a virtual opponent, but a track that determines the game’s actions in response to a cube drawn from a bag of resources, the contents of which you yourself have some control over. The game is a lot of fun with others, with its player count of 1-5, but the solo variant works well. It scores highly on my list for its theme and presentation, but loses a little on strength in depth for the soloist. It is a joy to play, and you’ll certainly be adjusting your strategies to the developing game-state, but you will long for some human opponents to see the best of the game’s design.
61. Police Precinct (Common Man Games)
Police Precinct hits it right on the nose when it comes to theme driving mechanics. Everything about this game tells you this was theme first, mechanics second. I love a good thematic game, and one that tells a story. This one does not shine with its story, but it does have a lot of variability, and will have you smiling as you push your police car token around the map’s streets, dealing with road-traffic incidents, petty crime, and gangs on corners showing you no respect. These day-to-day crime events distract you from the main case, which is to track down a murderer with evidence scattered across the city. The concept is really great and well executed. It’s a good strong thematic, though a little rough around the edges, but going into its 2nd edition it seeks to upgrade on things like artwork. It’s a good fun game, and very playable solo. It lets me down a little with the occasional anti-climactic ending and the basic flow of every game going much the same way. There is very little development as the game progresses, unless you let some of the threats get out of hand, but at the same time, solving the crime gets easier as the game progresses. That’s the only real complaint – the tension does not build as much as I hoped. However, they have lots of ideas in the rulebook on how to ramp up the difficulty. I would have preferred more balancing in development and a stronger commitment to those balancing mechanisms by the developers. But top marks for originality and playability!