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Subject: Solitaire Variant: Taking On "The Donald" rss

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Dale Buonocore
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In this solitaire variant, you will be competing against a robot opponent called “The Donald” (actually, for practical purposes, he’ll be referred to simply as “D” from this point forward). You’ll need a D6 “financial advisor” to counsel D regarding some of his choices.

When any choice points arise for D which are not explicitly covered, use your best judgment to choose the option which works more in his favor -- if the choices are essentially equal, use his advisor (the D6) to choose.

D has unlimited financial resources at his disposal, along with an accountant who automatically pays for all of the costs/losses which result from his actions and/or any events affecting him. However, D will earn PPs as usual for all wealth which he earns in any way during the game. Thus you will need to track D’s earned wealth (which will only grow), starting at "0," as well as yours (which will start at "39" and fluctuate as usual) -- using appropriately colored cubes on the PP track to track wealth works really well, and whenever D’s wealth reaches the “100” space on the track, immediately convert this wealth to 10 PPs as you would at the end of the game (and as you will then with any of his wealth under 100 as usual).

Use a 2-player set-up, with changes as follows:

You go first in choosing the first of the starting buildings, then D selects on the basis of his advisor’s recommendations (via the D6 -- I usually first roll for the column, then for available options within it). Note that the player who takes that 3-value residential building gets the Media vocation marker as usual.

The Contractor will not be used, so remove that tile. When the Contractor is to do something as the result on an event, whomever has the lowest number of PPs takes that action.

You will take the first turn, so draw 1 planning card -- then D draws, invests, and discards the next 2.

Play your turn as usual -- D plays his turn as follows:

-- First, he follows his advisor’s recommendation (the D6) to pick, invest, and discard 2 of the face-up Build Permit cards...

-- In the same way, he picks 2 Contract cards, and then chooses which one to build according to the following priorities: 1) the one with the most Vocations; 2) the one with the highest Vocation score (D will always take the PPs, as he has no need for money); 3) the one which will provide him the most PPs immediately as a result of the building’s effect(s); 4) the one with the biggest building; 5) and if it’s still a toss-up, he will follow the recommendation of his trusted advisor. Then he discards the other...

-- Once D has chosen the building which he wishes to construct, he builds it in the highest value block where he can legally build it (remember -- money is no object for him!), orienting it in the way which gives him the biggest neighborhood bonus. If there should happen to be 2 highest value blocks but one would give him a bigger neighborhood bonus, then he’ll choose that option -- otherwise, his advisor will help him choose among equally good options. He then will get any pertinent Vocation tiles and resulting PPs (he always chooses PPs) as usual. He executes any other additional effects in the ways which are most advantageous for him, asking his advisor for assistance when needed to choose between equally good options. If an effect directs him to place wealth or prestige markers, he places them in the row where he has the greatest advantage in terms of the number of buildings, again turning to his advisor when needed to break ties...

D is always the "player with the greatest wealth," and will always choose PPs over wealth whenever there is a choice. He will refuse to “pay” PPs for any reason (he’s quite stubborn in many ways) if he can.

Otherwise, play proceeds as usual.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As you learn to play better and find yourself beating “The Donald” too easily and/or consistently, there are a number of variables which can be easily “tweaked” to increase the difficulty level. I would consider the above to be the “Normal” difficulty level (although I realize that more experienced players may still consider it to be on the easy side?). Accordingly, here are the simplest ways I can see to “kick it up a notch”:

“Harder” difficulty level -- After picking and building the first Contract card, D then rolls the D6 and builds the second one if he rolls a 4 or higher.

“Really Hard” difficulty level -- D always builds both. While adding a bit more complexity, this option will certainly maximize the area control battle aspect of the game. Or, if a somewhat simpler tweak is preferred: D gets a PP for every 5 (rather than 10) earned wealth, thus doubling the PPs he gets via earned wealth.

Combine all these tweaks, and you're playing at what I would call the "Nearly Impossible" level...!

That’s about it. Great game, and plays very well with this solitaire variant so far. Any comments and/or suggestions for improving it would be most welcome. Thanks for your attention.

[EDITED to include more (and better explain the rationale for) noted difficulty level tweaks.]
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Dale Buonocore
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So after further play (and 3 consecutive wins at the “normal” difficulty level), the value of some additional “tweaks” and fine-tuning of the harder difficulty levels has become apparent. Basically, there are 2 main variables which are readily adjustable: 1) the “earned wealth” factor for D, which can be amped up by giving D a PP for every 5 wealth he earns; 2) the probability of D’s constructing that 2nd Contract card, as determined by the set D6 threshold, from 4 (50%) to 6 (approx. 17%). The first doesn’t directly affect gameplay, while the second does so in a variety of ways -- and combining them provides a number of additional options, resulting in what is essentially a continuum/range of differing difficulty levels.

Using “W” to indicate use of the double wealth component, and “B6” (or 5, or 4) to indicate the “build” threshold on the D6, here’s how it seems to be best falling into place at this point:

Harder -- W or B6
Hard -- W+B6; or just B5
Really Hard -- W+B5; or just B4
Crazy Hard -- W+B4

(NOTE: forget the “D always does that 2nd build” option, which makes for an “Unbeatable” difficulty level!)

I’ve beaten it at the “harder” level, but not yet at the “Hard” level -- got thumped last night (W+B6 option) 419-335, although I thought I was in it until a couple of critical builds by D near the end put it out of reach. Also struck by how seemingly high these scores are...

Anyway, if anyone else tries any of these options out, I’d be interested to hear your results and your thoughts. Great fun to play, by the way...!

[EDITED: To clarify one issue raised below...]
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Dale Buonocore
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Quick update: beat "The Donald" at that same "Hard" level (the W+B6 option) tonight by a score of 326-267 -- so now I know it can be done. While still working to control valuable rows as much as possible (and thus to gain and maintain both types of payout advantages), focused more on building in highest value blocks (and acquiring vocations!) so as to win elections and keep my politicians in office, thus reaping their benefits more effectively.

I love it when a solitaire robot forces me to learn how to play against it better in order to beat it, just as a good opponent should...!
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Steve Jones
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Printed out and read the rules for this variant and decided to give it a try tonight. A few questions arose as I was playing and would like some feedback on them, if you would.
The advisor or D6 rolls are my biggest issue. How do you apply the result in the following situations?
1) Rolling a "6" when selecting a build permit as there are only 5 cards to choose from.
2) Choosing available buildings after the airport has come out since there are 7 cards available in City phase and 8 during Metropolis phase.
3) Duplicate rolls
4) Choosing start-up buildings after a row/column has filled up
When selecting a building, do you follow your guidelines per step or apply them all at once? While I agree there has to be some control to the "AI" I have run across situations that would be more beneficial to "D" but chose to follow your priority list instead.

Enjoyed the game but was a little confused by the mechanics. I chose not to buy the 3 value Res in the begining to sort of give the "D" a chance at it. Maybe this was wrong of me because I didn't win but there are some things that are predetermined during the game and was trying to not have a "set up" feeling.

Anyway, your input and explanation will be appreciated.

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Dale Buonocore
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All good questions. Assuming I'm understanding them all correctly, answers are as follows:

1) re-roll;
2) pair the die results with the AP cost -- if you get a 4 or a 5 later in the game when there are 2 cards available at that cost, roll again to choose between them;
3) re-roll;
4) re-roll for the filled row and/or column as needed;
5) follow the decision-tree in strictly sequential order.

Lastly -- I always take that 3-value Residential building as my first choice in order to get the Media vocation marker. Don't worry about taking unfair advantage of "D" -- he has plenty of other advantages built in, and remember that you can adjust the difficulty level in the other ways noted as desired.

Thanks for trying this solitaire variant out and posting these questions. Hope my responses prove helpful, and that you continue enjoying this delightful game. Still the best city-building game I've played, although I'm looking forward to both Suburbia and Ginkgopolis...!
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Jerry George
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I don't understand this:

Using W to indicate use of the double wealth component, and B6 (or 5, or 4) to indicate the build threshold on the D6, here’s how it seems to be best falling into place at this point:

Harder -- W or B6
Hard -- W+B6 or B5
Really Hard -- W+B5 or B4
Crazy Hard -- W+B4

The double wealth is easy but don't understand the build for D. The earlyer version said he builds a second on a 4 or higher on a D6. The B6 notation to me seems to say he only builds if you roll a 6 and B5 if you roll a 5 or a 6?

Thx,

Jerry
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Dale Buonocore
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You are correct. At least for me (noting that the older version can certainly still be used if desired), these difficulty level parameters essentially replace those previous ones, and your interpretation of how the D6 "build threshold" works in them is spot on.

I prefer this newer difficulty level system as it provides a greater number of smaller/"smoother" steps up the difficulty level ladder, so to speak.

Thanks much for posting your question...!
 
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Jerry George
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Then the words hard and harder should be switched like this:

Hard -- W or B6
Harder -- W+B6 or B5 (both 5 and 6 do not make sense)
Really Hard -- W+B5 or B4 (same for 4 & 5)
Crazy Hard -- W+B4

The more often D builds the harder it is to stay in control
 
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Dale Buonocore
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There may well be a misunderstanding here as a result of my poor way of explaining things -- sorry.

When, for example, it says Hard = "W+B6 or B5," what is meant is: either W and B6, or just B5. Same with Really Hard = "W+B5 or B4" -- i.e., either W and B5, or just B4.

Sorry for that confusion, which is totally on me. Thanks for pointing it out so that I could try to clarify it. Hope this really does clarify it...?!
 
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Jerry George
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Elad wrote:
There may well be a misunderstanding here as a result of my poor way of explaining things -- sorry.

When, for example, it says Hard = "W+B6 or B5," what is meant is: either W and B6, or just B5. Same with Really Hard = "W+B5 or B4" -- i.e., either W and B5, or just B4.

Sorry for that confusion, which is totally on me. Thanks for pointing it out so that I could try to clarify it. Hope this really does clarify it...?!


I figured that out BUT if you use B5 and you rolla 5 OR a 6 D gets 2 and if you use B6 he only builds on a 6 so that seems like a good sized differance.
 
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Dale Buonocore
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I agree -- and hopefully that difference is compensated for by the addition of the "W" component to the B6 on that "Hard" level.

And I hope those labels for the difficulty levels make sense -- I was thinking that one step up from "Normal" would be "Harder," then on up to just plain old downright "Hard," then "Really Hard," and finally "Crazy Hard."

Thanks again for your input. I should probably go up and edit that posting to ensure clarity on that "either/or" issue which you raised...
 
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Jerry George
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play report
Only time I have is at work on Sundays so just finished a game. Only have 15 minutes left in my day so very close on time.

I played the harder version with B5 only. It was a major see saw game. I passed D 3-4 times on PP. I had some good luck and bad luck with the rolls. Three times in the game the D took permit cards I Needed and I was not able to build for a turn. That was balanced a little that he did not build twice very often. Not enough Urban Renewal cards came out for my liking.

Final score was 200 for the D and 206 for me. Having 3 elected officials verses 2 put me over the edge. Also a lot more blue buildings hit than have in my live plays and I had the majority.

The first time I passed him was when he built the Port, a 4 lot blue building. I had 3 more blue than he did so 12 PP and 12 dollars extra went my direction.

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Dale Buonocore
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Thanks for the report. Sounds like it was a heck of a game -- I love 'em when they're close like that! Well done...
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Kurt R
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Hey Dale, I got around to trying this last night and liked it a lot. Please clarify the following though:

1) The last thing you do in setup is take Planning cards, correct? So, this means that you the player will be ensured of having more money than TD and will get the Media vocation marker in that setup step? Then you get a card, he gets 2 cards and invests them.

2) If TD ever has to pay money from an event card or to the Treasurer, his income on the track (I use a green cube to track his income) never goes down, so there's really no effect. Is that correct or would his marker on the track ever decrease?

3) I found myself skipping the effect of some of the buildings as it was too difficult to determine what he would do. I don't want to play against myself and prefer to follow AI priorities. Do you do all the effects or do you ever find yourself skipping some?

If I played correctly, then I think I came roaring back from about 180 points down to beat him by a large margin (played regular mode since first game). Thanks for making this. This game didn't work for me and my group, but as solitaire it's one wild ride. I look forward to making a video when I'm through my current Navajo Wars game.

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Dale Buonocore
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Whew -- it's been a long time since I played this. So, after digging it out and "refreshing" myself a bit (and pouring a second cup of coffee!), let me try to answer your questions.

1) Whichever of you takes that 3-value residential building gets the Media vocation marker.

2) Correct.

3) I can't recall skipping any such building effects for TD due to uncertainty over what he would do. Can you give me an example or two of such buildings?

Also -- please don't hesitate to alert me via geek-mail me when you've posted questions (or pretty much anything!) regarding one of my solitaire variants. I just happened to come back to this thread and catch your posting this AM, and would have felt really bad if it would've wound up sitting here unanswered for who knows how long...!
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Kurt R
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Elad wrote:
Whew -- it's been a long time since I played this. So, after digging it out and "refreshing" myself a bit (and pouring a second cup of coffee!), let me try to answer your questions.

1) Whichever of you takes that 3-value residential building gets the Media vocation marker.

2) Correct.

3) I can't recall skipping any such building effects for TD due to uncertainty over what he would do. Can you give me an example or two of such buildings?

Also -- please don't hesitate to alert me via geek-mail me when you've posted questions (or pretty much anything!) regarding one of my solitaire variants. I just happened to come back to this thread and catch your posting this AM, and would have felt really bad if it would've wound up sitting here unanswered for who knows how long...!

Thanks, I was getting close to gm'ing you, yeah.

Well, the rules say the player who has "the most remaining wealth" gets the Media marker, not necessarily the one who takes that building, so that's why I was confused. I guess that's just a rule change here then; take the 3-value and get the MM.

As to building effects, he might get to remove one of my building markers or move a building, etc. Now, there might be reasons to do one thing vs another in one area vs another. It didn't happen much, but some of the building effects were quite involved as to what a player might do in that situation. No biggie, I was just curious.
 
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Dale Buonocore
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Yup -- that's a rule change (i.e., who gets the Media vocation marker at the start of the game) specifically for this variant.

As for such building effects, I would just do whatever was clearly in the best interests of TD, and use the D6 to choose among equal options.
 
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Kurt R
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Really like this variant! Thanks, Dale! And I made a video on it to briefly show people how it works:

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/video/61676/urban-sprawl/takin...
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Deathworks
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Hello!

Just to get this clarified - TD does not pay any costs for building contract cards - no permits and no AP, right? And he does not accumulate permits as he immediately invests them.

Yours,
Deathworks
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Kurt R
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Deathworks wrote:
Hello!

Just to get this clarified - TD does not pay any costs for building contract cards - no permits and no AP, right? And he does not accumulate permits as he immediately invests them.

Yours,
Deathworks

Correct. His income marker on the track never goes down. If he owes you any money, you get it from the bank. He never deals with any APs.
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Dale Buonocore
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Kurt's response here is (as usual) spot on. Thanks for beating me to it, Kurt!

And thanks for geek-mailing me to alert me to this question, Deathworks, or who knows when I would have gotten back here. (Then again, with Kurt responding so quickly and helpfully, all I really had to do was offer confirmation anyway...!)
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Deathworks
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Hello!

Thank you both. I got through my first complete game (aborted the first try after missing several basic rules (^_^;; ) probably forgetting only a few instances of a few rules. Donald wiped the floor with me, but it was a very interesting session.

A very nice variant, albeit maybe a bit tough for me.

By the way, can Donald pass me planning cards to activate building effects? I played with it not being possible.

And what happens if Donald gets a card in his favour? (Some event allowed him to pick something for his favour, IIRC) I assumed that he would build it at the beginning of his next turn in addition to his usual expansion.

Yours,
Deathworks
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Dale Buonocore
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If memory serves me correctly (no guarantees on that!), Donald will not pass you planning cards to activate any building effects, so you played that correctly; and he will be affected by Events as usual within given parameters -- so it sounds like your assumption there was also correct.

Does this track with your reading of it, Kurt?
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Kurt R
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Elad wrote:
If memory serves me correctly (no guarantees on that!), Donald will not pass you planning cards to activate any building effects, so you played that correctly; and he will be affected by Events as usual within given parameters -- so it sounds like your assumption there was also correct.

Does this track with your reading of it, Kurt?

Yep.

Quote:
And what happens if Donald gets a card in his favour? (Some event allowed him to pick something for his favour, IIRC) I assumed that he would build it at the beginning of his next turn in addition to his usual expansion.

In that case, I would roll a die for him to pick a Planning card which he immediately invests.

Glad to see you trying this, DW. It's tough but it gets easier as you learn how to play the late game of "stompy! stompy!" and build over The Donald's buildings and take control.
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Deathworks
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Hello!

enzo622 wrote:
In that case, I would roll a die for him to pick a Planning card which he immediately invests.


So, no construction card for him? Or both? (That would be really nasty) I think it was something about the district attourney or something.

After some consideration, I think I will house rule it to be as described above - have the AI pick a random construction and build it during his next turn. After all, this seems to be closest to the regular mechanism.

Quote:
Glad to see you trying this, DW. It's tough but it gets easier as you learn how to play the late game of "stompy! stompy!" and build over The Donald's buildings and take control.


Well, generating enough funds to play that game is one challenge. And getting that union boss seems mandatory to me.


BTW, has anyone tried to tackle Donald and his evil twin sister Dorothy? That is, playing against two AIs? As far as I can tell, the variant rules would not need any real tweaking (D doesn't really care about the other players that much), and it would be interesting to see how things unfold when the AIs compete in the elections for the political offices (and also for those valuable slots).

Yours,
Deathworks
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