So, we’re moving on from board games at this point in time for the holiday lists. That isn’t to say that there might not be board games in this list, but that’s not what this list is about. Instead, I want to give you some …
Tag: deck building
When buying gifts, sometimes I do that to try and improve someone’s collection of games, and by that, I mean to move beyond the likes of the Monopoly, Clue, Scrabble, Chutes and Ladders, and Candyland that most househoulds have had, and take those people who …
For a lot of people board gaming is a social activity, but 2020 has made that less likely and harder to do at least in bigger groups. For some people with serious medical concerns or just general concerns about Covid, that isn’t an option, or maybe with their work, or whatever it might be, so for them, and for the people who just don’t have a game group around for other reasons as well, solo gaming can be a great option. I’m not going to repeat the two, Gloomhaven, and Onirim that I’ve already talked about, so let’s talk about some other games that are good solo and might make a great gift.
This is probably my favorite solo game right now, and it’s fun because you can customize it for the person you are getting it for. Marvel Champions is a Living Card game put out by Fantasy Flight Games, where you take on the roll of a hero (or you can play up to 4), and you face off against a villain, their henchmen and their schemes. You have two sides you can play as a superhero, you are either in your alter ego side, T’Challa, Tony Stark, Peter Parker, etc., or you are in your hero side, Black Panther, Iron Man, Spider-Man, etc. When you are in the alter ego side the villain only schemes and won’t fight you, when you are in your hero side, they’ll scheme slower, and fight you. It’s a balancing act changing between the sides of a hero. What works well in this game, is that it’s a living card game, that means that Fantasy Flight is supporting it by putting out new heroes, villains, and scenarios for it. So if someone is a huge Black Widow fan, you can grab the base game and the Black Widow expansion pack and customize for them. And there are a ton of different character options. Great for a superhero fan if you life, but also just a really good game.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
So, I’m going with another living card game here. If you try and get someone everything for these, it’ll get extremely expensive, but Arkham Horror: The Card Game, is a great solo game, and worth talking about. In this game you are taking an investigator through a series of story where the choices you make can and will make a difference. If you kill a monster, save a person, find out all the cultists, that’ll adjust your scenario, story, and rewards going forward. This game is a really nice puzzle of a game where you are trying to find clues, pass tests, and fight monsters, using cards that are either equipment or abilities, or spending them for resources to make it more likely you’ll pass a test or so that you can buy one of the cards. It’s a really interesting game system that allows itself to tell so many stories in so many different ways in something that is just a card game. Very smartly made and really enjoyable. This is for someone who loves to try and optimize and solve a mystery/challenge the best that they can.
Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger
While the other two have been good gamery games, Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger, is basically just a choose your own adventure book, with some cards and some challenges. This one has a ton of nostalgia to it as you play through what is a completely insane story seeing how well you can do, trying not to die, and reading great story. And by great story, I mean that it’s very crazy story but that it’s a lot of fun. It’s written in a very light way and really interesting and enjoyable. This one works well solo because you can kind of just flip through the cards, make decisions quickly, roll dice when needed for the challenges, and continue. None of the decisions you make seem like they have a massive difference in how the game will go, they mainly will get you stuck in areas or having to deal challenges which you’ll probably eventually defeat. This one is good light fun for a solo gamer who is just looking to have a good time.
First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet
For your sci-fi solo gamer out there, there is First Martians. In some ways this is almost Martian, the book and movie, the board game. You are on Mars, setting up the first colony there, and things are going to be breaking down. You need to think about food, oxygen levels, you might be out exploring the surface, building things to improve your base. This is a pretty challenging game with a not that well written rule book. Fortunately you can learn to play by watching it on the Watch It Played YouTube channel, Rodney Smith does a great job there. First Martians also gives you a number of ways to play. You can pick one off missions focused on different things, such as exploring Mars, building and adding on to the station, or just trying to make a broken station survive. But then there are also campaigns where you play through a few games in a row. Overall this game, while it has it’s flaws, is so much fun to play and offers quick experiences and longer campaigns depending on what you want.
Aeon’s End Legacy
So I mentioned campaign games above, and I think it’s fitting to wrap up this list with a game that has a campaign to it. There are a lot that I could have picked, Mage Knight, Deep Madness, Folklore the Affliction, Sword and Sorcery, Reich Busters, and a whole lot more, but I’m picking Aeon’s End Legacy because I like deck building games, and I think that the game play offered in Aeon’s End is really interesting and easy to solo. By that I mean that in lot of these games you can’t just play them true solo, even something like Gloomhaven you have to control two characters, so you’re doing more “house keeping” and keeping track of leveling up multiple characters. Aeon’s End Legacy isn’t true solo, you do have to control at least two characters, but the game play is much simpler. You don’t need to think about 10 different stats, what weapon or dice to use or roll. Instead, you are just playing your hand of cards when the turn comes up. I’m a big fan of Aeon’s End: War Eternal, so Aeon’s End Legacy is one that I have on my shelf that I need to play, but that I’ve heard great things about and that I can recommend knowing the system well.
Now, there are obviously a lot of other games I could mention, Mansions of Madness, which I’ve talked about before, really most cooperative games can be played solo. I’m even playing through, or will be soon, Pandemic Legacy Season 2 solo. So even games that aren’t truly solo, as long as there isn’t hidden information, can be played solo, but I think that hopefully these are some good options. I basically went with cooperative games, but there are solo variants for things like Alien Artifacts and Scythe out there as well, they just need a bit more house keeping in what is done.
What solo game would recommend for a solo gamer? Or if you are one, what would you want to get?
We’re getting down to it, getting close to the Top 10 games, only a few more of these lists. It’s been a blast as always putting these out and I’m glad that people are enjoying them. I’d be very curious to know what your top 10 are, and what you think my Top 10 might contain.
Plus a few notes on how I’ve put together the list:
- These are my favorite, you want what people consider best, see the Board Game Geek Top 100
- If a game you love isn’t on the list, it might be be coming, I might not have played it, and if I have, it’s 101
- If a game looks cool, I have links to buy it from CoolStuffInc or Amazon, or you can grab most at your FLGS
- There are a few games, Destiny 2 Player versus regular Destiny where if they are basically the same thing, I only do one of them
This is one that I think is going to climb higher and higher over time because of how simple but fun the game is. And I have to say, I really like the theme of brewing beer. This game is basically an engine builder where you are trying to be the best at brewing beer and to do that you need to brew, and hone your recipes so that you can place well at Summerfest and Oktoberfest. To do this you get cards that are ingredients which you can use for a one time affect, like if you need an influx of money, get one that gives you some money, or you can add the ingredients to a beer, so maybe every time I brew my porter now it has oyster in it which gives me $1 versus a one time cash thing of $5. You can create some fun and crazy combinations, and in all honesty, I’d probably try them. I also like that in this game each character as a special power, so you can decide how you want to play the game and can do something different than everyone else. This is a fast engine building game, and definitely one that can work as an introduction to engine building.
Last Year: 45
This is a game that I need to play more, but it is a big game, so it’s hard to get to the table all that often. In Zona, you are trying to get into the vault at the heart of Chernobyl, but to do that you need to brave the wasted lands surrounding it where few go and where mutated monsters roam. You can play this game solo, or you can play it competitively, which I think is really interesting. So you are exploring, finding what you need to get to get into lesser locations and then fight monsters, survive, and get into these locations, get out with some new very useful cards and get into the heart of Chernobyl before everything falls apart and the game wins. I find that interesting where the game has a timer where it can itself win, in a competitive game, so it is possible that all the players will lose.
Last Year: 34
28. Just One
Just One is the top party game on the list, and I think that it’ll hold that spot for a while. The game is just clever and enjoyable to play. In this game one person is “it” like in so many party games, and they, instead of trying to get people to guess a word are trying to guess a word. Everyone else is putting down clues for them, one word clues, hence Just One. And everyone needs to write down a unique clue. If people cross over with each other, those clues are cancelled out. Again, hence why this is called Just One. The game works really well and it is a lot of fun. I also like that like Cross Clues, Just One is a cooperative party game. Most party games are meant to be silly, but if you are out of the game part of the party game, it just becomes purely silly, and for a game night, I like party games that can keep people in the game itself, and Just One does a great job of that.
Last Year: 22
This game my record is probably 0-15, maybe 0-20 at this point, and it’s a cooperative game. This is not a game where you win 50% of time like a lot of cooperative games try to be, it is a game that is extremely hard to win, but clearly I still love it. In this game you are Samurai who are taking on villains. You are fighting honorably, so you know when the fight is going to happen, so you prepare. You do this by researching the villains, by increasing your stats and then eventually once you’ve used up all of your time, you select the villain who you are facing off against. The issue is that you need everyone to beat the villain they are facing off against, and you basically never have the time needed to completely research the villains or to get yourself completely prepared to fight. The concept just works really well for me, and the game play is very smooth. My only knock is that this game can play a lot of people, but it probably should max out at four or five, because otherwise it is a bit long.
Last Year: 43
I love this game as a different feeling card puzzle game. Like Parade, this game has been randomly given the theme of Alice in Wonderland. It could have been anything or nothing. In it you are trying to score the most points by having the best collection of hats. These hats have numbers, and you start out with a hand of them as well as some that are going to be determining what is scored on the table. The trick to this game, and I think what I like about it so much, is that you are trying to manipulate the table in such a way by playing down cards and then using the ones for scoring that you place in front of you, that when all is said and done the colors you have are scoring and they are scoring well and that whatever you opponent(s) were collecting doesn’t score well. It just feels like a twist as you have a set hand of cards and while you can change them up a little, it might not be enough to get it set-up as you want. This game plays fast and is a good thinky filler.
Last Year: 26
25. Point Salad
Another filler on the list up quite high. This must have just gotten played after I made the list last year, but Point Salad has been a game that has consistently gotten to the table and even 4-5 times in the past week. In this game you are building up the best salad possible to score as many points as possible. And that’s the joke, in a point salad style game, everything you do is going to give you some points, so AEG created a game where you are building up salads and everything might give you points. What determines if something gives you points though is based off of the scoring cards you draft. So this is an extremely simple game, you either take vegetables for your salad or you take a scoring card. But you have to pay attention to what is scoring for you and how. Maybe you have a card that gives you 4 points per tomato, but it probably also gives you -2 points per onion and carrot, so you need to build your salad right so that you scoring as many points as possible. The game is so simple and turns are fast, and while there is less depth than Hats, this is still a great filler with a bit of depth.
Last Year: Not Ranked
I love deck building games, and Aeon’s End: War Eternal is a very good one, in my opinion. And I would hazard to say, had I played more of the Aeon’s End games, I’d say all are great deck building games. Now, there are a ton of deck building games, so what makes this stand out. I like that you are facing off against a big boss, which isn’t unique, but you can start to whittle them down right away if you want, which isn’t always the norm. I like the breach system for casting spells. You can open up more breaches for your character and cast more spells per turn when you do that. And what really makes this different is that you don’t shuffle your deck. This is the only deck building game that I know of that you don’t shuffle. What happens when you run out of cards, well, you just flip your discard pile and you have your deck again. This means, if you are counting cards, you can set-up turns for yourself. You might want a turn with no spells just because with a lot of purchase power you can buy a better spell, or maybe you want a good mix so that you never have a turn where nothing happens. What also is interesting is that turn order isn’t set. The nemesis, monster you’re fighting, will have 2 turns for every six player turns. But you have a turn order deck that is shuffled, and in a two player game where are two player one cards, two player two cards and two nemesis cards. So the nemesis could go twice in a row at the start, then four player turns, you just don’t know. It makes the puzzle feel harder that way, but also can set-up some moments of calm.
Last Year: 16
23. Criss Cross
One of my top roll and write games. Criss Cross is very simple but so much fun. In this game everyone is playing at once, trying to place symbols rolled on dice adjacent to each other in rows and columns on a 5 x 5 grid. That doesn’t sound too bad, but you need to treat the two dice rolled each round as a domino, basically. That means if the symbols rolled are a circle and a triangle you need to place the circle and the triangle adjacent to each other on the grid. You need to also make sure that you don’t leave yourself with a single spot separated from everything else because it means you won’t be able to fill that spot. The game is super fast and very fun. Scores can and will vary wildly based off of how things are rolled, but it is fun crossing your fingers hoping that the write combo is rolled. I like that you are scoring both the rows and columns too, and in the expert version the diagonal, so you can’t just focus on rows or columns and expect it to go extremely well.
Last Year: 23
This game, why isn’t this game out yet. It was so amazing playing at GenCon last year that it is on my list because I got the full game experience there. It should, fingers crossed be coming out yet this year, I have a preorder in for it, and it might, just might, be coming out this month, October, still. Which would be perfect because this is a horror adjacent game. In this game you are spending time and moving around trying to get rid of your curses and be the first player to get out of the town. The issue is the town is keeping you trapped in as long as you are cursed and there are monsters roaming around. Plus, the other players, they don’t mind if you get attacked so they might be encouraging that. And they might be deranged and attacking you themselves. This game has nice card play for determining what actions you are doing and how good they are. And then if you’re deranged, you flip the card upside down and use a similar but different set of actions. The game is just clever and while not short, turns play pretty fast. So much fun in this game and has a good theme that I like.
Last Year: 17
Some games have a fair amount of alpha gaming in them if they are a cooperative game. That is to say that one person tells everyone what to do on their turn. The Lost Expedition is a game that has, built into it’s mechanics, ways to prevent that from happening. Players, without communicating, place down cards for both a daytime and evening hike as they work their way toward the lost city of Z, so no one knows what the other people are going to play. In the day, the cards are then sorted into numerical order and you’ll have to navigate them, and even the evening, they are played in whatever order they come out. And most of these cards don’t do good things. So no one can tell other people what to play, then collectively as a group, you decide how to spend resources and what actions to take, of the optional actions on a card. Sometimes it’ll be good like giving you more food or bullets, but most of the time you are hurting yourself as spending resources from your guides, from your food supply, or bullets, and if you run out of life on your guides you lose the game. The game is very clever and plays very fast. There’s always discussion around the table as you try and map out the best route of using and gaining resources and advancing closer to the Lost City of Z.
Last Year: 32
This is an odd section of the list because two of these games are still really high after mainly just playing them at GenCon last year. Deranged isn’t out yet in the US, I believe mainly because of Covid delays, but I had so much fun with it, I had to make the list when I have played it. I have it preordered, I’m just waiting for it to eventually come, I suspect that Deranged will end up moving higher the more I play it.
What is your favorite from this section of the list?
It’s that time of year again, and I’m going to talk a little bit about what I’m doing and when I’m going to try and consistently do it from here on out. We’re doing my Top 100 Board Games of ALL TIME! Now, this is …
So, when building up your board game collection, it can at times reach the point where you have so many games that you just don’t play them all that often, and that you have a core few favorites that you play all of the time, so the question always is, do you add more new games to your collection or should you get an expansion?
Now, both have benefits in terms of your game collection. So I’m going to talk about the pros to both, and probably some cons as well, but when it comes to gaming, for me getting more games you can play is never going to be a bad thing.
The Argument for Exapnsions
So the argument for getting an expansion or starting to focus more on getting expansions is that you’ll probably play their content more. For a lot of games, Small World, Pandemic, Sagrada, and others, you’ll often just find yourself always having the expansion in the game. So if you are playing those games often, you’ll get more use out of that content.
It also can increase the replayability of those games. Stuff like Pandemic and Small World are great for introducing new people into board gaming. But it can end up feeling like you are playing the same game over and over again. So getting new roles in Pandemic or getting new monsters and abilities in Small World that can create combos or new strategies to try, those things will freshen up a game for a player who plays those games a lot.
Sometimes you can also not increase the number of boxes for the games by getting expansions. If the expansion can be stored with the base game, or vice-a-versa, you don’t add any new boxes to your collection that take up shelf space. Now, this isn’t always the case so sometimes you’re just adding boxes like normal, but if you are tight on space, that’s one reason to consider an expansion over a new game.
The Argument for New Games
With a new game one of the big selling points is that you can try something new. Sounds obvious, but it might allow you to find a new type of game or a new favorite game by trying out something new. Or you might find an improvement upon a game that you already like, if you like something like Splendor, trying Century Spice Road or Century Golem Edition might give you a game that you like better or that people in your group will like better, even though the feel of the two can be similar.
A new game also allows you to fill in gaps in your gaming collection. Now, everyone will have different types of games that the prefer, but sometimes you might need a party game, and you might need it so that you don’t get stuck playing a party game that you really don’t like. Or maybe a euro or deck building, or whatever it might be. So filling in some of those areas that you might not have enough of for your gaming group and to keep it interesting is important as well.
The Arguments Against Expansions
While I talked about the added variability, one thing to be slightly concerned about with adding more is the addition of complexity to a game. So you might take a game that is relatively easy to get to the table and make it harder by adding in additional rules or roles to explain. So while technically the game has more replayability because of those things, it will see the table less because it’s harder to pull out with a group of new to the game players. I have a friend who has several expansions for Galaxy Trucker, but because it’s harder to teach with those in the box, they raretly get played with.
Also, an expansion might not add in that much more to a game, so kind of the opposite of the one above, but if it just adds in a few more cards or a modular board, or something like that, it might not feel like it changes up the game that much, so it doesn’t add to the game play or it getting back to the table again.
The Argument Against New Games
The most obvious one is that you might not like the game, as simple as that. It’s an unknown commodity to you and there’s a risk/reward to factor in to it. Now, the more you’ve played games and played a variety of games, the odds of finding a complete miss aren’t that high, though it might not be something better than you already have on the shelf.
Speaking of shelves, space is also a concern. Because it is something completely new, it could take up a chunk of space and if you are limited in how much space you have, it might be the case where you won’t have room to store a new game. Now this can be rectified by getting rid of a game, but you might love all the games that you have, so then you have to make a choice if you decide to get any new games.
So, is there a better option, getting expansions or a new game? I don’t really think so. I think expansions can breath new life into an old game if you get them, but if you’re enjoying the base game, there’s no reason to. I think that new games can help you find things that you love and new favorites but probably have a higher chance of being a dud. It depends on how people play their games. Normally, I’m writing this mid Covid-19 Pandemic 2020, I play a lot of new to me games and a lot of different games, so having a good variety is great and something I really enjoy. But if you’re with a group who likes their handful of games, expansions are a great way to keep that feeling fresh.
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We’re getting down there for the Kickstarters that I’m still waiting on. In fact, I got one that was delivered a few days ago with Calico, a game about quilting and cats. I’m sure I’ll be talking about that more coming up. But today’s games …