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I'm coming up on the part of the year when I'll be traveling a lot, and that means a lot of time alone in hotels or waiting in airports or on airplanes. So I play solo games sometimes to pass the time, and I have some typical standbys for solo games that I've always liked, including Arkham Horror, Pandemic, Ghost Stories, Space Hulk: Death Angel and Lord of the Rings. In some cases, those would be hard copies but for others like Arkham Horror it's using a custom Vassal module... there just isn't really enough room on an airplane to setup and play Arkham Horror, ya know?
I've been jonesing lately for some new games that might work well solo (and if they're also good or better as multiplayer then of course that's great, too). I passed through Spokane the other day, and couldn't resist dropping by the Boards & bits warehouse there to grab a few things, so I picked up Mousquetaires du Roy, D&D: Wrath of Ashardalon and Conquest of Planet Earth. All have been highly recommended on F:AT recently, all seem to have a good thematic core, and all can be played solo. So here are my very initial impressions of each...
D&D: Wrath of Ashardalon: I had never played Castle Ravenloft, so this was a brand new experience, and I definitely loved it. Yes, it's simple and a bit repetitive, and the choices are minimal, but there are several choices throughout, and for being a relatively quick playing dungeon crawl, I think it provides a good amount of tension and fun. I don't typically like playing multiplayer cooperative games solo using just one character... the interaction between the different characters is what makes some games like Pandemic and Ghost Stories particularly good... but I did enjoy the first solo adventure with one Hero quite a lot. That being said, I liked playing the 3rd adventure, controlling two characters, even better. They didn't really interact much, but it still seemed to be more fun to be taking a party (even a party of 2) through the dungeon together. I can see this being very unwieldy, though, with more than 2 Heroes... they each have a lot of cards and as the game goes on they can have several Treasure cards and monsters lined up. So I'll probably play this solo with just 2 Heroes.
Conquest of Planet Earth: I had been interested in this, initially, then balked on getting it after reading the rules. It just didn't seem like it would be too much fun to play, based on the description of the gameplay. But then Steve Avery and Richard Launius both gave glowing recommendations, so I figured I'd give it a chance after all. I should have followed my initial hunch. Thematically, it's fun, but the gameplay just doesn't seem interesting at all to me. It's very repetitive and you're just rolling the dice over and over to fight the resistance of each location. Avery said this is better than Last Night on Earth, and I have to say a huge, "NO WAY" to that. LNOE has much more depth and character and plays very differently from scenario to scenario, and gives a very different challenge every time. This, just... nah. It seems to be the same thing over and over; move your aliens around and fight at the locations. I guess it has sort of a vague "Risk with some character abilities" feel to it, but this just seems bland to me. Even A Touch of Evil, which I thought was only okay compared to LNOE, seems to be more fun than this. Granted, this is a first impression based on a partial playthrough (I didn't even want to finish after a few turns) of the solo version of the cooperative game. I can see the competitive version of this being amusing a few times with the right group of people, but I don't think it's gonna work for me and so it's going up for sale or trade.
Mousquetaires du Roy: As Ken described in his recent review, this is terrific. A different theme, and there's a lot of character development, direct conflict and some clever ideas throughout. It seems to blend some elements of games like Ghost Stories, Lord of the Rings and Shadows Over Camelot, but is also unique. Very surprising for a Ystari game. In the solo game, you miss out on the human Milady player's choices, so I'm sure this is better as a multiplayer all-vs.-one game, or even as a 1 vs. 1 game, with one player as Milady and the other controlling all 4 mustkateers, but the solo version does feature most of the elements of the normal game, and gives you the flavor and the tension and the same essential challenge. This is definitely a keeper.