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Subject: A Simple Solitaire Variant rss

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Dale Buonocore
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Warren
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A quite delightful hybrid of a game, mixing deck-building elements with network-building board game features in a rather unique way. But a way of playing it solo has thus far been lacking. And so, for your consideration, here’s a pretty simple (and fun to play) variant involving a bot which will henceforth be referred to as T-Bot. You will go first, and play normally. For T-Bot, you’ll need a D6 and a D20, along with a different token of some sort (referred to as his “Action Token”) to keep track of the hex where he took his last action, which will be referred to as his “Action Hex.” Set-up changes and T-Bot’s play are as follows...

SET-UP: T-Bot will place his initial rail token first (along with his Action Token), using the D6 to choose among 3 options on whichever side you choose to use. On the Tokyo side, he’ll choose among Kichijoji, Futakotamagawa, and Jiyugaoka. On the Osaka side, he’ll choose among Amagasaki, Minoh, and Ibaraki.

PLAY: Every turn, T-Bot randomly chooses one card from the supply with the D20 (excluding Waste) and places it in his deck. Place the pile of Waste cards in slot #16, and re-roll for any roll of 16 or higher, or if you hit an empty slot later in the game.

Then T-Bot takes one action:

1 -- He will build a station in his current Action Hex if possible, and doesn’t have to worry about taking a Waste card. If he cannot build a station there, he will...

2 -- Lay one rail (doesn’t have to worry about costs or Waste) from his current Action Hex toward the nearest city or remote location where he doesn’t already have a rail token (move the Action Token to that hex, which then becomes his new Action Hex). T-Bot cannot backtrack, and will use the D6 to choose among otherwise equal options.

End game conditions and scoring procedures are unchanged.

That’s pretty much it. So far, I have lost 3 times to T-Bot -- but I keep getting closer (in order, 59-44, 57-52, and 56-53). Once you become familiar with how T-Bot plays, it proceeds rather smoothly and fairly quickly, and you can easily get in 2-3 games (using the same card supply) in one sitting.

If you do give it a try, please feel free to let me know what you think (and how you did), and to offer any suggestions for improvement. Thanks for your attention, and I hope you have as much fun with it as I have been having...!
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Gary Duke
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Very interesting!

Instead of a d20, you could arrange the cards in a 4x4 grid and use a d4 (or a d8/2, d12/3, or d20/5) to select first a row then a column.
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James Clarke
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Nice idea, but am I missing something? Isn't the outcome simply a matter of how lucky T-Bot is at rolling VP cards?

 
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Dale Buonocore
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Warren
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Highland Cow wrote:

Nice idea, but am I missing something? Isn't the outcome simply a matter of how lucky T-Bot is at rolling VP cards?


That is indeed one factor involved in how T-Bot scores his points (20% chance of his getting one of those cards each turn, with an even split between 1, 2, and 4 VPs), just as it is for you. But how his network on the board develops -- in conjunction with how you respond -- seems even more important in my plays thus far. For example...

Do you move toward him, trying to anticipate where he'll go so you can then reap the points from his station building efforts? Do you move away from his network so he doesn't do the same to you? Do you actively try to lay rails into cities where he's already built the stations in order to get those points, despite the extra cost of doing so? Optimally balancing these approaches as the board develops plays a critical role in the outcome, especially as it can be quite close.

The game almost always ends with his laying his last rail, so it's also important to be mindful of how many turns are likely left to play, and to choose wisely when to focus your efforts on acquiring those precious VP cards -- too early, and they clog up your deck, but too late and you'll likely find yourself sputtering out toward the end.

And then, of course, you have to optimize your use of the specific cards available for that game (i.e., those 8 "randomizer" ones), which T-Bot couldn't care less about.

So, sure -- as with most bots, T-Bot plays in a rather simplified, straightforward (nothing subtle or nuanced), and "brute-force" kind of manner -- and luck will play some role. But he will definitely challenge you to play well (and to try out different tactics/strategies) in order to beat him.

Thanks so much for raising that point, and thus allowing me the opportunity to better organize my thoughts on that issue and respond in what I hope is a helpful manner. I hope you'll give it a try and see for yourself how it plays out -- any suggestions for improvement will be most welcome!

 
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James Clarke
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Thank you. Keeping your rules exactly the same, I have a couple of suggestions:

T-Bot's score will be pretty random, so don't even bother counting it. Use only your score as a measure of how well you've done. The objective is no longer to beat T-Bot, but to achieve consistent improvements in your scores and beat your high score.

For a bit of variety or harder challenge, try it with 2 T-Bots


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Rob White
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Thanks Dale. Hope to give it a try in the next week or so. Also excited to see some official 2-player maps come out. Figure that would only help your variant.
 
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Dale Buonocore
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Highland Cow wrote:

Thank you. Keeping your rules exactly the same, I have a couple of suggestions:

T-Bot's score will be pretty random, so don't even bother counting it. Use only your score as a measure of how well you've done. The objective is no longer to beat T-Bot, but to achieve consistent improvements in your scores and beat your high score.

For a bit of variety or harder challenge, try it with 2 T-Bots



Your suggestion about focusing on improving your score is certainly a good one, and actually can be done while simultaneously trying to defeat T-Bot. The two are quite compatible, and -- at least for me -- that amplifies the "fun" factor.

Interestingly (and somewhat surprisingly), despite that random factor, T-Bot's scores in my so far limited number of plays have fallen in a surprisingly tight range -- between 56 and 59. Perhaps that will broaden with more plays...?!

Your suggestion about playing against 2 T-Bots was most intriguing. I may have to give that one a try!

Thanks much for your response and suggestions.
 
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This works really well -- very elegant, close games.
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Zen
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Trying this out right now. I do love Solo Variants for games that don't have one. Thanks!
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Ryan Osborn
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We'll work up a Number 6 on 'em.
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Great variant! Thanks.
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