Saturday, 11 August 2012

My world of solitaire board gaming

I love solitaire board gaming! As much as I love playing with a group of people. The two playing styles complement each other and I need them both!

First experience with solitaire board gaming was Solitaire ASL (Advanced Squad Leader), back in 2005 or so. I started playing ASL with a group of people, and at the same time found (and bought) the ASL solitaire module. It was an overwhelming experience, an eye-opener. Wow, there are board games designed for one person! Cool! I could play whenever I wanted - in the middle of the night or right after breakfast in my underwear, and in my own pace!

In the recent years, the number of games designed for pure solitaire gaming, or ones with solitaire support, have really grown a lot. The demand for solitaire games seems very large. Could it be today's stressed society, that makes it harder for people to find time to gather and play games? For me it is definitely a part of the answer, but also that I enjoy solitaire play as a phenomena. Competing against tables, dice and cards - a kind of AI lite (a.k.a. Paper-AI). Fascinating, especially for a software developer like me, where all these mechanics very much resembles software programming and algorithms. And best of all, I can have a game ongoing for weeks, squeeze in a five-minute move between emptying the dish washer and feeding the kids. I see no difference in playing a solitaire board game and a (single-player) computer game, which certainly is a common activity among people in general.

The rest of this post is a list. A list of all the solitaire board games I own. Most of the games on this list are pure solitaire games, designed only for one player, but some of them have (official) optional rules for solitaire play, or are co-operative, which by nature usually makes them suitable for solitaire playing. For each game there is a short comment on my thoughts of the game.

Solitaire ASL
Solitaire ASL (2nd edition)
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
Wonderful ASL module! Opens up an entirely new world for ASL. And as stated above, this was my entry into solitaire board gaming, so I'm thankful that I once got my hands on this one.
My deluxe copy of Pocket Civ
Pocket Civ
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
This was the first solitaire board game I obtained after Solitaire ASL. It's a free print-and-play game, and I made myself a deluxe copy of the game. Being a Sid Meier Civilization fan since my early computer years, getting this game was a no-brainer! It is fast-paced civilization-like game, which is really hard to beat, but very much fun. I have always wondered why it has not been picked up and published by a game company. It deserves it.
Field Commander: Rommel
Field Commander: Rommel
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
I don't remember how I found out about the game company Dan Verssen Games (DVG), but I'm glad I did. It was back in 2007-2008, and I came across this game. It was their first game to be published and I pre-ordered it. It is a pure solitaire game in where you take the role as the German Field Marshal Rommel during WWII. It is a great game. Hard to beat, and very unforgiving. A bit too unforgiving at times I would say, where a few bad dice rolls can make you lose quickly. However, I love the game, and have been a DVG fan ever since.
Field Commander: Alexander with its
gorgeous maps!
Field Commander: Alexander
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
Second game in the DVG Field Commander series. Since I was pleased with Rommel, I instantly pre-ordered this one. I like it. It is a good game. Most of all, the artwork is far better than in Rommel, real eye candy to say the least. The game feels a bit linear, comparing to its Rommel brother, but it simulates the wars of Alexander the Great well (in a very abstract sense of course).
Field Commander: Napoleon
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
Third installment in the Field Commander series. Best so far in the series, in my opinion. Biggest, most tactical challenge, most replay value and with great components. I think the map artwork is slightly dull (comparing to Alexander which is very colorful), but on the other hand, the color scheme suits the era and areas well. That is just my tiny subjective remark, and does not affect the fact that this is a really well-done product - fun and challenging!
Field Commander: Napoleon and
its HUGE box!

Game in progress!

Fields of Fire
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
An extremely innovative game. One of a kind. A WWII, Korea and Vietnam solitaire tactical wargame. A rare combination in the solitaire world. Terrain is randomized for every scenario, as is the enemy confronting the solitaire player, meaning infinite replay value. A huge and deep game. I invested weeks in this game when it was first released by GMT back in 2008. There is one problem though - the rulebook. I spent numerous of hours reading and posting in forums for rules questions. It took away the fun and flow. The rulebook has been a hot subject of discussion ever since this game was released. I wouldn't say it's badly written, it's just a bit unorganized, and due to the complexity of the game, it is hard for a rulebook to cover every possible situation that potentially could arise on the playing table. A second edition of the rulebook has been released though, so I guess it is soon time for me to bring this game onto the table again, after a couple of years idling on the game shelf. There are also words on an iOS implemention on its way (would be an instant buy for me). And there is even a second volume in the works.
Fields of Fire

Really nice counter artwork.

Terrain cards creating a unique map for every game.

Frontline: D-Day
Frontline: D-Day
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
A WWII tactical 1-4 player card game, where each card represents one soldier or vehicle. Good game, but there are some problems making the game a bit unbalanced depending who is first player and not. These issues have been half-way sorted out by the designer with some optional rules that could be applied to make the game more balanced. However, I think the game system needs an thorough overhaul. Some issues with the game system are highlighted in this post. I really want to like, no even love, this game, since the idea of having one card for each soldier, group them in formations and send them into fire fights is really cool, but there is something fishy in the core mechanics of the game...
Pandemic
Pandemic
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
An addictive co-operative game where the players work together trying to save the population of planet Earth before it's going under due to a pandemic outbreak. (Yes, a non-wargame - I do have some of those too!) The game works very well solitaire. Everyone I have played this with, loves it! Hardcore gamers and non-gamers alike. Simple, but elegant mechanics. All in all, a fantastic game. Glad I have it in my possession.
Phantom Leader
Phantom Leader
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
Covering the air war of the Vietnam war. A great game. You choose pilots, arm your aircraft and send them out on missions. A nail-biting game. Easy to learn and with great replay value. A must for a solitaire wargamer interested in the Vietnam era and/or air combat. Surprisingly enough, this game is coming to the iPad soon! According to Dan Verssen himself, the game is in final testing (ConsimWorld post here). Instant buy for me. Can't image having one of my favourite solitaire board games on my iPad... it's just... just... wonderful!
Empires in America. Space
required in the game shelf is
basically zero - just a small
plastic bag!
Empires in America
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
A States of Seige game by Victory Points Games. I covered this game on this blog, in this post. I'm a fan of the States of Seige engine, and this particular implementation is a very good one that I enjoy playing.
D-Day at Omaha Beach
D-Day at Omaha Beach
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
A hex-and-counter game, with a huge map. Unfortunately, I have not yet played this. My bad. From what I have heard, this is supposed to be an extremely good solitaire game, created by the legendary game designer John H. Butterfield (designer of classic games like Ambush! and RAF). I must get this onto the table, soon.
Space Hulk. Small box.
Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
A co-operative card game where you control a number of Space Marines trying to clean out a spaceship from hostile aliens. Not impossible to beat, but almost! Nevertheless, a lot of fun to play. Works very well solitaire.
Labyrinth
Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001-?
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
Another game in my solitaire collection that I haven't played. This is a two-player game, but it has, from what it seems, a well developed official solitaire engine included too. Must try this some day. Seems cool.
TAL
Thunderbolt Apache Leader
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
Just got this game by mail a few weeks ago, so I have not had time to try it. This could possibly be one of the best solitaire games I own, at least according to all positive feedback it has got. Just check out Marco Arnaudo's video review or read this review. Since I like Phantom Leader, I will most likely love Thunderbolt Apace Leader! Soon to find out!
Malta in play. Beautiful colorful map!
Malta Besieged: 1940-1942
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
A WWII States of Siege game. As the Allied player, you defend Malta from the Axis invaders. A good challenge, with a lot of decision opportunities for every turn. And as with other States of Siege games I have played, it is filled with historical facts and is heavy thematic-wise. For my next business trip, this is the solitaire game I will bring (to kill time in the evenings), since it is a big game in a very small package! Love it!
Dawn of the Zeds
Dawn of the Zeds
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
Another States of Siege game. Not played this one, just got it by mail a few weeks ago. Supposed to be a lot of fun. Apart from most other States of Siege games, this is one is not based on historical events, but instead zombies! Possibly the only one zombie game I own.
D-Day Dice
D-Day Dice
(BoardGameGeek entry here.)
One of the best games in my entire board game collection! Just got it a few weeks back, but have already played it 30+ times! A wargame dice fest! I have covered it in this post.

So what is in the pipe for the future? Well, as always, I have some games on pre-order, and in the case of solitaire games, we are talking about these:

* GMT's Revolt and Revolution. Three States of Siege games in one box. Two of them have been previously published by Victory Point Games, and the third is new for this box.

* DVG's Frontline: Guadalcanal. However, I'm a bit unsure about this one. Since there are some more or less major flaws with Frontline: D-Day (stated above), this game would need a upgraded game system before I buy it. I will keep my pre-order for now, until I hear more about this.

* Valley Games Inc's Airborne in Your Pocket. Kickstarted this game a couple of days ago. Same designer and publisher as for D-Day Dice, so this can't be bad!