Under Falling Skies, designed by Tomáš Uhlíř, came to light as a runner-up in the Print-and-Play category of the Board Game Geek 2019 Golden Geek Awards. Indeed, I was aware of the buzz the game was creating and downloaded the printable files needed to play the game. I never did print those files. I heard that the people at Czech Games Edition were taking Uhlíř’s design and were going to turn it into a full-blown production. Needless to say, I ordered it as soon as it became available.
Expressed simply, this game could be described as “Space Invaders: The Dice Game”. Where you roll dice and allocate them across five columns of your underground base to muster airstrikes. Then, generate electrical power, and gradually reveal more of your base using your excavator.
The big key or catch (depending on how you see it at that exact moment in time) is that the effectiveness of the dice placements is proportionate to the pips showing on the die – so a large number will generate big benefits in your base, but will cause the alien ship(s) in that particular column to descend at the same rate!
You win when you have gathered enough research, and you will lose if your base is destroyed by an accumulation of the descending alien fighter ships, or if the looming mothership finally advances too close to your base.
This game is highly configurable. With flippable sky tiles which make the alien ships more potent, or different bases to change-up how you approach the game. That’s not to mention the sheer wad of campaign stuff that comes in the box! And once you have played through the campaign you can add elements of that to your regular games! – “We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”
In my review for Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion, I predicted this would become the future number one ranked game. It has since jumped to 12th spot, and is still climbing, but is it any good in solo?
Well as a co-op game, it inherently sits within the “perfect for solo” genre anyway. But with the story being as it is, and the dungeon crawling and fighting being integral, is this fun on your own?
If you like adventure, freedom and a good story then yes, I would say it is. I have played a number of the levels solo and in a two and enjoyed both experiences equally. It is nice to talk about what you are doing with another player, but the story is absorbing enough to keep a solo player captivated.
The sense of adventure within the game is huge and the feeling of freedom is quite large, despite the actions available to you actually being quite limited. This is a phenomenal way to understand the wider world of Gloomhaven and maybe even try out solo games for the first time.
A year ago I had never played solo games before. Now I play all the time! And the thing that initially turned me was The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle earth. The reason this game worked for me was the story was so captivating, that the experience felt akin to reading a book. This made me feel less foolish and in truth, less sad about playing a game on my own! As I told myself I was just reading an enhanced book. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion offers something like this but arguably with a better and more engaging story.
The initial set up before game one is a chore and the box is way too small for all the bits, but everything else is gaming perfection. This could be the thing that makes you explore the solo gaming world a little more and realise.
Solo games come in all shapes and sizes. From big, table eating, time sinking monsters, to smaller, quicker playing, low footprint games. There is a time and place for them all in my collection.
2020 was a great year for solo gaming and Warp’s Edge from Renegade games is one in particular that I have been enjoying a lot.
Warp’s Edge is a solo only bag builder designed by Scott Almes and has a play time of 30-45 minutes. You play as a rookie pilot, Taylor Minde, in the Force’s Outer Rim. You end up being lost and separated from your fleet and attempt to jump through warp gate after warp gate to make it home. But with each jump, you get deeper into enemy territory. You eventually stumble across the enemy's Mothership and you must now outmanoeuvre and shoot down the hordes of enemy fighters as you attempt to take down the Mothership.
Warp’s Edge offers a lot of things that I like in a solo game. It is easy to set up, plays quick and has streamlined gameplay. There is also a lot of replayability in the box. You have various Motherships to defeat & various ships to play with. Each of these has different abilities, rules or tweaks to the standard gameplay.
The game is a very interesting puzzle. There is a tension to the revealing of the new enemies from the deck. Efficiency and optimisation is key to the game. Working out which enemies to defeat to get you new tokens or abilities and which to stun and leave for the next round is where the “meat” of the game is at. I love the progression in increasing your bag of tokens with more powerful tokens and special abilities. But as the game progresses you face off against stronger and more powerful enemies. So it always feels like you are one token short of what you need. But when you pull off a nail-biting win with clever token play it feels so good.