This summer holiday I participated in a challenge started by the Dutch solo players group. In this challenge each week of the holiday represented a few letters. So the first week was A & B, the second C, D & E etc. The goal was to play solo games starting with the letters of the week. You got points for every different game with a maximum of three per game.
During the challenge I played 34 different solo games and logged a total of 63 plays. My goal was to play a lot of different games, try some new print and play games and play some games from my backlog. Playing a lot of solo games in a short amount of time has really helped me define what I do and do not like when playing solo. For this article I wrote a short review for every game I played during the summer.
My first game for the A was Ark Nova. Ark Nova is a game that combines a lot of mechanisms into one big game. You will use hand management, set collection and tile placement to build and manage your very own zoo. The goal of the game is to have the most successful zoo. This includes enclosures (tile placement), animals (set collection), unique buildings and specialist, while also supporting conservation projects and releasing animals into the wild.
I played two games and won both of them. Once with a score of 4 and once with a score of 17. I also participated in the Solo Sunday Challenge hosted on Instagram so my second game had a predetermined setup. It was actually a lot of fun to start with a certain setup and see how well I could do against other solo players. The game was also still a lot of fun even though I was playing it a ton lately. And the more I play the more I can sort of find a viable strategy for each game based on my starting hand. In my long review I talked a lot about the randomness in the game. And although I still think there is a fair amount of randomness. I also recognise that it becomes easier each time I play to mitigate that randomness by making good, strategic choices.
You can read my full review HERE.
I’ve owned Sprawlopolis for quite a while now and played it a lot. But I never dived into Agropolis before, so this was a great opportunity to do so. In Agropolis you draw three goal cards from the deck and then attempt to place cards one at a time to create the best scoring tableau. The gameplay is very similar to Sprawlopolis but now you don’t build a city but a rural environment. This includes orchards, wheat fields, livestock pens and vineyards.
I played three games in total and lost all three of them. I did get better though and I’m starting to feel like I might be focusing too much on the goals and too little on making big blocks of colours. It obviously plays very similar to Sprawlopolis and is just as easy to take with you. Like the other Button Shy games the game comes in a wallet so it’s perfect to take with you for a quick game on the go. This is exactly why I like these games, I can play a game on the couch in the garden while the toddler plays on the grass.
My last game of the week was Ada Lovelace: Consulting Mathematician. A free print and play game that I got off of BGG. In Ada Lovelace you assemble polyomino pieces on a map of a museum with the aim of capturing key pieces of criminal evidence. If you capture these pieces of evidence they might grant you extra abilities for future turns. After five rounds you score points based on how many pieces of evidence you captured, how many rooms were searched and how many abilities were unlocked.
This game is not complex at all. Roll dice, place polyominos based on the dice, roll more dice etc. But for a free to play, printable game it is an excellent filler game. I played this game on the couch while watching the Formula 1 and it was perfect for that. It easily fits on a small surface and all you need, besides the sheets, are some dice and a pen. And even though it isn’t the most complex game my score was only average so I still have some room for improvement as well.
The latest print and play from Postmark Games (from Voyages) that just came out. I translated the rulebook into Dutch for them so the rules of the game were already known so that made it a lot easier. Wonderful roll and write about diving in the ocean. Played three games and was able to see real progress after trying new strategies and better assessing what is and isn’t beneficial to do.
For the challenge I also played Voyages and I do have to say that I prefer that one. Mainly because in Voyages you have set goals for solo play to work towards. In Aquamarine this is less the case (there is a goal for depth but it isn’t hard to reach in my experience) and you focus more on your score. Personally I find Aquamarine more a relaxing, play it while watching TV kind of game. Where Voyages needs more attention from the player.
Played one game because I still had to learn the game, but I won! With exactly one piece of land left so not really a convincing win… Can’t say a lot yet in my opinion because the game is so new to me, but I really enjoyed playing it and you have a lot of influence on what happens in the game even though you keep drawing cards with bad effects (just like with Pandemic).
You do feel more in control than with Pandemic because you can prevent or undo some flooding when you need to. And the more the game progresses the more powerful you become with new action possibilities, while at the same time being way more vulnerable because of the flooding. This makes it feel tight and tense towards the end game without feeling impossible. Playing solo is just playing two handed and that works fine for a cooperative game like this.
I’ve had Black Angel in my collection for a while now but never came around to actually playing it. Until now! Mainly because I had to play a letter ‘B’ game for the summer challenge.
In this game humanity has exhausted the natural resources of Earth. And then created the Black Angel to transport the genetic heritage of humanity to a new world. The crew is composed of several robot AIs, who co-manage the ship. When you finally arrive the AI that has earned the most VP will be the one to reawaken humanity.
In the solo game you will play against one of the robot AIs called ‘Hal’. And it will be your goal to both reach the planet and to score more victory points than Hal. In the game you will allocate dice to perform a sequence of actions each turn. Your actions are performed to discover technologies, repair the Black Angel, destroy Ravagers and to command your ships to explore space.
How do I feel about the game? Well, it took some getting into with all the different symbols and actions. But once you get a feel for the game it actually works very nicely. Everything you need to know about the gameplay is on the boards, so once you know a rule/symbol you won’t need the rulebook again.
It does feel somewhat punishing to play against Hal, who keeps scoring crazy amounts of VP compared to me. But this is probably due to my own inefficiency playing this game. I hope I will get a better feel for the correct choices to make when I play the game more.
All in all this game absolutely fits what I like in a game. There is a lot of decision space, you can build up your engine and become more powerful as the game progresses and there is a challenging opponent to play against. Now that I finally took it off my shelf I will definitely play it again soon.
Oh and did I mention there are cute, little aliens that you get to put into little alien ships?
I’ve had it for a while and I always enjoy playing it so that was an easy one, nothing more to learn. What I like about Clever is that you have so many paths and options, so you apply a slightly different strategy every time. And no strategy or path feels overly powerful (to me) so you don’t resort to always playing the same way. You have enough powers and escapes to mitigate a really bad roll but still need to plan ahead a little to do well. I also recently listened to a podcast that had an episode specifically about Clever, so of course I wanted to try those strategies right away. I scored 189 points on my first challenge game and the played two more games with a score of 148 and 175.
Also a familiar one to me so I decided this time to start with the challenge that you can find in the manual. So I played the first game with the A target cards, the second with the B cards and the third with the C cards. Cascadia remains a very solid solo game. You don’t feel like you are missing out on anything compared to the multiplayer game. The art is beautiful and the gameplay is easy yet satisfying.
I got the required number of points in all three games, so that’s great. Incidentally, I did see that it will become more difficult after this with specific requirements in points for certain animals and such. In any case, it remains a nice game, easy to set up and a fun challenge in a relatively short time. I scored 94, 86 and 89 points.
You can read my full review HERE.
This is a fun (and free) print and play where you try to make a quilt that is as unique as possible for sleeping cats. With two dice you determine the shape and the pattern you can place. This one was easy to play but it was a nice challenge. Really a bit of puzzling to fit everything together exactly. Can easily recommend this one as a solo game to play if you have a bit of spare time. I scored 39, 41 and 40 points.
I picked this up at a local shop for a few euros so it seemed like a fun one to try out. It’s a pretty simple roll and write. It is nice that you first physically place the dice in patterns on your sheet, before you remove them at the end of the round and check the boxes. This makes it feel a bit more like a physical game than the average roll and write. I’ve played it twice. The first time went very well (69 points) and the second time a lot less (31 points). That’s also the main problem with this game, there isn’t a lot you can do to mitigate bad rolls. So you have to accept that some games might be doomed without anything you can do about it. Which honestly isn’t my favourite.
For the E I played a game of Everdell against the Unrigged Rugworth. In this version, Rugworth takes a card every time you place a worker instead of when you play a card (and there are a few more minor tweaks). This makes it, in my view, much more fun and balanced than against the original Rugworth. You also have a lot less work and can concentrate much more on your own game and city.
I enjoy Everdell as a solo game with both the original and unrigged Rugworth. The goals you can achieve always give me something to work towards and as the game progresses you can do more and more each turn. Playing against an AI also helps me enjoy the game more because you always have to take into account how your actions influences them and their scoring. If I build a card that scores me one point, Rugworth will grab one and he always get two points for a card. So is it worth it? Thinking these things over makes the game be about more than just grabbing and building whatever you can.
I scored 53 points and Rugworth scored 43. So a nice win! Maybe increase the difficulty a bit next time.
The game I played for the F was Forbidden Desert. Usually I go for the heavier games when I grab something myself. But because of the challenge I picked this one up again and I was actually positively surprised. The rules of the game are not very complicated so I could start very quickly and with the difficulty level on average it is still quite a tough game to win. In my opinion, my two characters were not very well attuned to each other and unfortunately they both died of thirst in the desert. But I think with a few more plays and better knowledge of special items and powers and how to combine them you could do a lot better than I did.
This game was kind of forgotten somewhere in the back of my closet but playing it again has definitely brought it back in my mind. It’s easy to set-up, the rules aren’t too complicated and the gameplay is challenging enough.
On to Grove. This print and play had been on my to-do for some time, so this was a great opportunity to really put it together. First went to the local game store for beautiful small, coloured dice and then started printing, cutting and laminating. Fortunately, it turned out to be worth it 😉 Grove is an interesting puzzle. When you start laying cards you think it will be very simple, only to find out half way through that you won’t be able to place all the dice if you don’t work efficiently. But the more cards you put on top of each other, the harder it becomes to connect others. And so you look for a good balance. I played three games in a row and all three times I didn’t score very well (36, 37, 41). I’m also curious how it plays with the recipes on the other side of the cards as a challenge so I’ll test those soon (I already prepared two during the last game, but didn’t feel completely confident enough in my game to go all the way haha).
This game has quickly become a favourite of mine to take with me on trips when I know I’ll have some time to play a short game. It’s small, looks great and is easy and fun to play. Would certainly recommend making (or buying) this.
Hadrian’s Wall is my current favourite flip-and-write game, so it was an easy choice for the H. In Hadrian’s Wall you take on the role of a Roman General who’s in charge of the construction of a milecastle and the bordering wall. Over six years you will have to defend yourself from the warring Picts while you construct your fort and wall, man the defences, and attract civilians by building buildings and providing entertainment. The player who can collect the most renown, piety, valour and discipline and can avoid the most disdain, will prove to be the best Roman General and win the game.
I played three games in total and scored a few points more every game. I am noticing that I’m always picking a similar strategy or path so I might want to try a few new strategies when I pick it up again. Just to see if that might improve my scores. The game remains a lot of fun though and easy to pick up as well. It’s a great game for when you don’t have an insane amount of time to set-up and/or play something but still want a crunchy experience.
You can read my full review on the game HERE.
Imperial Settlers Roll and Write
One of the first roll land writes I ever bought and hadn’t played in a long time. It’s a fun game, but I have to admit that I’m more of a fan of the more complex roll/flip and writes like Hadrian’s Wall. Or games that really take up very little space and play nicely in between, such as Clever. Imperial Settlers is somewhere in between and therefore doesn’t quite work for me. I played one game and scored fine, 59 points.
My main other problem was remembering how many resources I had. When you have a few buildings that give extra or multiply resources you can’t just look at the dice anymore to see how many you have of each resource. Maybe I’ll see if I can find some resources to use for this. And I’ll have to try some of the other solo sheets to see if they add more variety which might be a big plus.
It’s a wonderful world
This one was completely new to me so the game I played was mainly about discovering and reading the rules a lot. It’s a bit like Splendor, with buying cards with resources so that you get more resources again and can buy better and better cards. Not necessarily very thematic or complex, but it plays very nicely and you really get that feeling of being able to do more when your engine gets going. I scored very badly, 37 points, but for a first game that’s not too bad. Next time I know better what to look out for!
Jurassic Roll & Jurassico
Because I don’t have a game with the J on the shelves, I chose to try two print and plays. I’ve seen both of these before, so why not try both? I played Jurrasico twice (once easy and once medium) and won both times. It is a fairly simple roll of land write where you have to take into account what your opponent (Embryonic inc) is doing so that you don’t let him earn too many points. If you can keep that balance between scoring yourself and not giving him too much, then the game is easy to win. I didn’t laminate these to try first and I think I’ll leave it at that. Not repeatable for me. Second, I played a game of Jurassic Roll. This game has some more things to do and some more trade-offs to make. By guessing which disaster will happen first you can earn good points and you also try to save as many dinosaurs as possible. I played once and scored a tidy 176 points.
Because I have the German version of this game I was able to play it nicely for the K. An ideal holiday game. I laminated a sheet of paper and took my Staedtler erasable (whiteboard) pens with me. This way I could play this game several times and wipe everything in between with a wet cloth. I played three times and scored 0, 5 and 13 points. Not very great, but I’m slowly getting better.
In this game you get to draw cards to add polyomino pieces to your sheet in different colours. The solo version hardly differs from the normal way to play. It is a very streamlined experience and colouring your sheet is pretty satisfying.
Lost Ruins of Arnak
Then I played Lost Ruins of Arnak, I had been looking forward to that for a while because the expansion had arrived just before the holidays! Lost Ruins of Arnak is a deck-building and worker placement game in which you try to do as much research as possible on your expedition. You will also try to bribe the wildlife and collect artifacts. It’s a great game and the AI is easy to manage making solo play a lot of fun.
The main thing I like about the game is how you can plan your actions in a way that you can combo a bunch of actions to reinforce each other. Collect a resource, use it to do research which gives you two new resources, use them to buy an artifact, use the artifact to move your worker to a new spot, collect the resources etc. You can build your actions on top of each other and do way more than you thought possible with only two workers and five cards at the beginning.
I also played Maquis. In this game you try to fulfill secret objectives during the war to help the resistance. You only have a limited number of resistance fighters at your disposal and more and more opponents appear on the board. The goal is to fulfill two objectives without losing all your resistance fighters. This game is also a purely solo game, which means that it is designed for solo play and that is something you immediately feel when you play the game. It’s a small box with a quick set-up and a really challenging puzzle to play. It’s easy to get frustrated with it though. Because sometimes you feel like you are doing everything right and you will still get annihilated because of unlucky card draws. But I guess that is also representative of war…
Another print and play I playes is Mini Rogue. In this game you have to survive through a dungeon during a number of rounds and you are always given choices which rooms you want to visit and a number of rooms that you are obliged to go through. Because there are only six rooms, you can gamble here and there and prepare for it, but sometimes you are suddenly surprised with a monster or something on the first map. A fun game for in between and quite spicy to win so the challenge is there.
For the M I also played Mobile Markets. This game is new to me so it didn’t go very smoothly, but I already realise that this is really a game for me. I used to work in a phone shop and I think this theme is really fresh and nice. It’s something different than sci-fi or fantasy and it fits well with the gameplay. The goal is to produce as many phones as possible, at a good price with the right features, and to make more profit than the automa, Steve Jr. But more luxurious phones cost more to manufacture and less luxurious phones are bought by few people. So where do you make concessions and where not? Nice puzzle and plays well.
Because I don’t have a game with an N I had to look for a print and play and I found it at ButtonShy! This is a very simple print and play as it is one page with five cards on it. These tell you how to play cards and what you get bonus or penalty points for. You win the game if you can discard all your cards and you lose if you have to turn over more than seven cards (penalty point). It seemed very simple to me, but you really have to think about what you put where, otherwise things will go wrong very quickly. A nice alternative to solitaire of you are looking to shake things up a bit.
The Dutch version of A Feast for Odin is simply called Odin so I played it for the letter O. I was once afraid I wouldn’t like it because of my dislike of Agricola (solo) but this is a very different beast indeed. You have so many different options to explore, there is an actual thought out extra element to solo play and the tile placement puzzle is really fun. I’m still a big fan of this kind of sandbox games where you have a lot of choice and can try different routes. It can be a little overwhelming having all of these options and no specific route to follow but once you explore a few routes you will start to get a feeling for what does and doesn’t work. And then the fun begins because the game opens up and you have so many different ways to victory.
Paladins of the West Kingdom
Still one of my most favorite games I own. The AI plays super easy, but really feels like an opponent who doesn’t just do stupid things. You can go in many directions in terms of strategy and actions and you always have the feeling that you are making progress. Very nice game played, but because of the hot attic I only left it at one.
I was able to get Paleo out of the closet for the P, I’ve been waiting for that for a while because I recently received the expansion for this. First unpacked the expansion and put everything in the base game (fits easily by the way) and then decided to play the base game first since it had been a while haha. So I played the first two modules, the second one twice due to a loss the first time. This is a more fun game than I remembered (or I was more in the mood for it now) and I had a lot of fun playing it. What I especially like is that the modules really bring a new challenge and puzzle that you can respond to with your own actions. For example, the second module is much more focused on hunting so it helps to collect more hunting symbols and thus become stronger. While that didn’t help much in the first module.
Quests over Coffee
I’ve seen this print and play pass by many times on various print and play groups so I wanted to try it. Via itch.io I retrieved all files and printed the whole game. And I am positively surprised! It’s a fun game for in between. Definitely not heavy, but that’s why it’s nice to grab it quickly during a cup of coffee. Your goal is to complete as many quests as possible in two rounds by rolling dice. In addition, you can bet luck tokens to improve your rolls and you can spend money to buy items that can help you. Played three games and won two of them.
Then I played Rove. I made this myself as a print and play and what a fun and challenging game! I kept seeing pictures of the path the Rover travels on social media, but I never really understood how the game actually worked. Fortunately, there’s more to it than just making a nice horizon, because you have to recreate patterns that are in the path of the Rover, but you only have a limited number of movement points to spend. So think carefully and plan ahead. Which by the way didn’t work out, unfortunately lost, but I was almost there!
Super-Skill Pinball 4-cade
I’ve played this one before and it’s still fun. It’s still fun to flip your pinball back and forth over your sheet and score points with it. This is especially nice when a combo turns out well. I especially like this for when watching a series or the like, not too complicated but a bit of work.
This War of Mine
I had played this game once after purchase and after that it has been in the cupboard for a long time. This challenge was a great opportunity to tackle him again. Unfortunately, I have to conclude that there is a reason why it has been gathering dust for so long. The more games I play the more I discover what kind of genres I like and this one isn’t one of those. I like eurogames more anyway and This War of Mine often feels way too random. I like it when I can plan and come up with a good strategy. And if I score badly then it was really my fault. But in this game you are constantly confronted with very bad things without you being able to do anything about it. Played a game, lost a game and then honestly admitted to myself that it would not be back on the table soon so it went on the marketplace.
This made me happy again haha. Especially with the solo board (printable from BGG) which makes it very easy to play the solo variant. Produced a lot and were able to build seven underwater cities, but unfortunately could not reach the hundred points. What I like about this game is how you can combine (or not) the colours of your cards and your actions and the engine you can build with it. The combination of worker placement and resource management while building an underwater empire is really satisfying and fun!
After playing Aquamarine earlier in the challenge, I thought it would be fun to try the predecessor as well. Bought and printed for four dollars and have absolutely no regrets! I think I personally like Voyages even more than Aquamarine. In Aquamarine you react more to the dice results and try to maximize the results, while in Voyages you have clearer goals so you try to combine the results of the dice in such a way that you get closer to your goals.
Welcome to the Moon
This one was new to me so the first game took some figuring out and getting used to (never played a game from this series before). But once you’re at it, it runs very smoothly. I started with the first card and the easiest opponent. It seemed for a while that I wasn’t going to make it, because you lose if you go through the deck twice, but with the last three cards I still managed to make a profit. Now that I understand a bit better how the mechanics work, I’ll start with the campaign because I’ve heard good things about it.
Zombie in my Pocket
Finally, I played this little print and play game. Especially since I don’t have a Z in my collection. I didn’t even laminate this or anything before playing because it was purely for the letter, but actually it was quite fun to play. And it takes up very little space! The aim is to find a totem in a house by connecting rooms and then bury it in the garden to make the zombies disappear. But every time you enter a new room you can be confronted with zombies. Fortunately, you can also collect items (such as weapons) or improve your health. But you should also not take too long because then you will lose the game anyway. I found the totem and ran into the garden, but unfortunately I was eaten by the zombies just before I could bury it.