Today is a day for value, my friends. I say value because I am saving you so much time in your day. If you came here to hear about the solo mode of Cartographers, you’re not just getting the one game. Oh no, you’re getting the details on Cartographers, Cartographers Heroes and all six currently released map packs. How’s that for value! How’s it possible, I hear you cry (in my mind.) Well, the gameplay for all of the games in the Cartographers series play the same, regardless of the map you play, the monsters you include and the heroes you may throw in. It’s incredibly efficient, so I’m passing that extra time onto you to maybe read about another game we’ve reviewed here. Or even pick up an extra game for yourself. Who knows? It’s your time, after all.
Honestly? Not a great deal of changes here. For the most part, Cartographers plays exactly the same for a solo game when compared to a multiplayer game. There are just two that really make a difference to the game.
When a monster card comes up, take a look in the top right corner. You’ll find one of four squares coloured in a dark purple, which indicates the corner you should be looking to place the monster on your map. If you are unable to place it in that corner, you move one square clockwise or anticlockwise. The direction depends on the arrows on the card that you would normally use to pass the maps about in a multiplayer game. You keep going around the edge until you are able to draw the shape as it lies on the card, no rotation or flipping allowed. If the border doesn’t allow you to place it, move one row in and round you go until you can place it. If you cannot place the monster at all, you ignore it.
The scoring for the solo game also changes up slightly. In the bottom right of each scoring card is a solo mode target score for that card. Once you have finished your final scoring, total up from each of these cards and subtract that from your final score. Compare that new total to the back of the rulebook and find out what your title is to include on the top of the map sheet.
Mapping My Musings
Quite honestly, there’s not much more to say here because a lot of the thoughts on the solo mode have already been spoken of in the reviews of the multiplayer game. Everything I love about the game: the puzzliness; the ease to get it to the table; the multiplayer solitaire; the infinitely variable set up and game play; all of these things are present in the solo game. If anything, it’s slightly better because you don’t have to deal with the monsters in the same way. They’re more predictable than the random whims of your friends and family who are actively trying to ruin your game. It almost doesn’t matter if an ambush happens because you can deal with it within whatever you’re already building.
The biggest nit-pick I have is that playing the game is actually pretty wasteful. Because each sheet is an individual piece of paper, once you’ve used both sides, it’s gone. I’m hopeful that one day Thunderworks will bring out a bundle of dry erase boards that can replace the sheets but if it doesn’t happen, they’ve at least got the option to download them from the website.
Even that minor issue isn’t going to stop me though. Cartographers was my most played game of 2021 and a lot of those games were solo. I think the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach really works with roll/flip and write games. It works for Railroad Ink and it sure works for Cartographers.