“You’ll Never Walk Alone!!!”………well, unless you want to!
Yes, friends, we are in the midst of Euro Footie Fanaticism! But, what if you’re just not that into” the beautiful game?”. What if you would rather watch paint dry than follow 22 men prancing around a pitch in matching shirts? What if you want to play games, but your gaming pals are temporarily glued to the screen?
Well, fear not, friends. There is no need to grab your paintbrushes or find new pals. Here at Zatu, we make it our mission to find the solution! And luckily for us, the answer is almost always “play more games!
So, our best six-a-side Zatu football-a-no-no-gaming-a-go-go team have put together their top picks for games which are just as good solo (or perhaps even better!) as they are in multiplayer mode!
This means that you can indulge in some superior single-player action until the rest of your gaming gang have come back to the table, tutting about the offside rule and missed penalties. Or, if you are the in-house footie fan, here are 6 top suggestions to keep your match-missing mate as excited as a streaker on the pitch!
There are quite a few things I would rather do than watch the Euros. But in terms of solo gaming, I want something that is immersive enough to allow me to drown out the erratic moaning and groaning of an England supporter during any football tournament. I also can’t have something that takes too long, ideally something that fits into two 45 min slots plus injury time.
Enter into the arena my most played game this month, Red Rising. This new release from Stonemaier Games is a handcrafting game with a simple play a card, draft a card, mechanic. Essentially, you are trying to get the highest point-scoring and synergy creating cards in your hands for maximum points.
The cards are all unique and have native points, but they will also have extra points available if you manage to create the right synergies between them. So, for example, some cards will get you bonus points if you are left with no gold cards at the end. If you have this card but no gold cards at end game then you are able to get those juicy bonus points too.
This game is based on the Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown. If like me, you are into dystopian sci-fi future novels, then I can really recommend this series. In the Red Rising future, Mars has been terraformed and a new society has been created in space where the people are separated into different colours and each colour has its job in society and has its place. There is a real hierarchy and in the story, the people at the bottom are revolting and overthrowing the golds who run the world. Who Run the World? Golds! Basically, Beyonce repurposed in a board game blog, who’d have thunk it?
Tiny Towns by AEG Games is a brilliantly versatile game with a super easy to operate solo mode.
In this game, each player has their own small 4x4 grid, and the goal is to construct as many point-scoring buildings on their grid as possible.
On each bingo-style turn, a player chooses a coloured resource which everybody then has to place somewhere on their board. When your board has a pattern of cubes matching those on a building card, you can remove those resources and replace them with a little wooden token. With the available space on your grid shrinking, and each building having different floor plans and rewards, however, Tiny Towns is a tricky exercise in perfect planning.
And, when playing solo, Tiny Towns is no runner-up real estate. Instead of other players selecting resources on their turns, you simply have a deck of resource cards. With three randomly drawn resource colours to choose from, you will quickly find your carefully planned strategy buried deep under the foundations of your dream town! Not only that, but should you need an extra hit during extra time, you can add in monument challenges to keep your mind on side!
Overall, Tiny Towns is a colourful, crunchy spatial puzzle game. It has great replayability at all player counts mode thanks to the variety of building cards, monuments, and resource randomness! It is also incredibly tactile and looks lovely on the table.
If you’re ever alone and wanting to play a game, traditionally you’d have to shy away from worker placement games. The big driver of worker placement is that all players are working from the same list of limited options, snaking away those which your opponent wants and so on. However, there is a game that has a very elegant workaround. A beautifully drawn game about bird spotting set collecting and engine building. Yes, it’s Elizabeth Hargrave’s Wingspan!
The gameplay is very simple – you use your action cubes to do one of four actions: play a bird onto your board; gather food; lay eggs and gather more birds to your hand. As you play more birds, you cover up more of the board and the actions become more powerful, reflecting the loss of actions later in the game.
The first aspect which makes Wingspan an excellent game to play alone is the fact that each action is available through playing individually on their own player board. This eliminates the player obstruction factor that worker placement games are notorious for. The second major aspect is the inclusion of the Automa engine. Named for the Italian word for automaton (and chosen because it was first used in Viticulture), the Automa plays by their own rules. Instead of choosing their actions themselves, the Automa has their own deck of cards which can be used with the round tracker to give a huge variety of actions between games.
The Automa is a powerful foe, but don’t be intimidated. You have the same level of control over your own destiny as you would when playing with a human. Plus the game can be played fairly quickly. In my experience, you could get two games in during, say, a football match. It’s also significantly more interesting to watch a bird based strategy game pay off anyway!
So, they’re still in the tournament, yeah? (sigh). Okay, I’m off to play a nice civilised game of pillage, plunder and pets, aka Raiders of Scythia.
This little thing ‘o beauty by Shem Phillips came out at the end of 2020 and is very much a revisit of one of his previous games, Raiders of the North. Only this has more bits – heroes and horses and eagles.
For those unfamiliar with RotN, this is a game of worker placement – singular – and worker retrieval – singular. Placing a worker allows you to do something in the village (say, recruit crew or smith silver or get resources) while taking a worker allows you to do something else (see above), depending on where you put or take them. Once you have built up your strength it’s hey ho, raiding we go for gold, resources and points. And, whoever has the most points at the end, wins the game.
As well as raiding and doing stuff in the village, you can also add horses and eagles to your crew, which will give them more strength, more points and other fancy abilities. It will also make them look cool. What is also cool is that you don’t need a friend to play, especially if they’re watching that there footie.
Raiders of Scythia’s solo play AI is great, no two ways about it. Usually, I find that board game Ais are so hard (like in Ultra Tiny Epic Galaxies – oh, you wanted that planet that you’ve been patiently building up over several turns and I can just get NOW?) that it makes you feel like you’re playing it wrong (still a possibility). Either that or it just blocks your way and make the solo game goals an impossible dream (Underwater Cities, I’m looking at you).
Raiders feels like you are playing against someone bound by the same rules, which is always nice. Plus, it doesn’t take so long to re-set. As such, once the final whistle has sounded, and your friends want to do something satisfying, you’re all ready to go.
It's got everything you could want. A tense head to head match against a tricky opponent. No, not that match on the TV, I'm talking about a game of Everdell.
For all its charm and cute appeal, Everdell hides a rather difficult, and at times, cut-throat solo mode. The brave player has to take on the devious Rugwort the Rat to build the best city and score the most points.
The solo plays in quite a different way to the multiplayer game. There are certain spots which are blocked off by Rugwort’s workers. These include one resource space, one forest card space and, to start with, one meadow card. Each turn you roll an eight sided die to determine the card in the meadow (which Rugwort gains). He is the only player who can take cards covered by his worker. This means that, with an unlucky draw, you can be blocked from a card you want for very early on.
At the end of the game, Rugwort scores 2 points per card in his city (but 3 points per purple card). He also gets three points for each basic event he achieves, 3 points for each special event you did not achieve and points from his journey space. The points Rugwort scores can add up fast. Everdell solo is a puzzle in efficiency as you try to outscore Rugwort.
There are three different difficulty modes you can play in solo mode; easy medium and hard. But, as with all the best solo games, “easy” is a bit misleading. It is pleasantly challenging and makes you feel a sense of achievement when you win. I am yet to beat Rugwort on a hard level - it’s almost as difficult as watching England take penalties!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, the only thing coming home today is my title as victor of Everdell!
The world has gone mad! Well, Europe at least…ok maybe just England. But everyone’s gone football crazy! Our party gamers have disappeared. Our player 2’s have gone AWOL. Die-hard euro gamers have become obsessed with an altogether different type of euro. What’s any self-respecting football hating board gamer supposed to do?! Well, go solo of course!
Thankfully there’s a ton of incredible games that can still be played even when you’ve been abandoned by your usual group! One of the standout solo experiences of this year for me has come in the form of Hadrian’s Wall.
This latest offering from Garphill Games utilises pencil and paper in a way recognisable to any roll and write fan. But it is so much more than your average roll and write! With a generous supply of meeples, resources and multi-use cards, Hadrian’s Wall gives that crunchy euro feeling. What makes it unique is that the player boards are two complex looking sheets of paper. Chocked full of tracks to advance on and buildings to construct, this game will have you sucking your teeth and scratching your head with the best of them.
The great thing about Hadrian’s Wall is that it’s practically a multiplayer solitaire game anyway. This means that the solo mode is so close to normal play it’ll take roughly 3 seconds to learn. What’s more, when everyone’s favourite teams inevitable come crashing out of the tournament in ignominy, you can get seamlessly back to playing it multiplayer!
If by some miracle that doesn’t happen too soon though, I have some great news. A 16 game solo campaign has just been released for free on the Garphill Games website. That should keep you going through extra-time AND penalties! There’s never been a better time to invest in Hadrian’s Wall!