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Subject: SoloPlay Variant for Core Worlds is now available rss

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Variant has been available since 12/5/13.

This thread describes/discusses the design and development of the Core Worlds SoloPlay variant. My design blog ends this post making this a very long post. FYI.

The download is available using the following link(s):
Core World SoloPlay Rules

This file is #45 in the SoloPlay series.
More game files available here on the Geek can be accessed from the following Geeklist:
SoloPlay Variants Posted on the Geek

SoloPlay- BGG user GameRulesforOne
Design Goals: To create a variant that will feel different even when played on the same board and give the player interesting decisions to make in each phase of the game.

Preface:
I first played Core Worlds in Atlanta in 2011, I think. It was on my list of games to try for the Gamefest and I got into a game the first day and then was able to teach the game to others the following day. I had heard that the game was a little mathy and ended slowly. AP is definitely a concern and it reared its head in subsequent plays with some. Still I thought that it was different enough to warrant a second look. I did not buy a copy until the following year and it played well with my boys and they were able to grasp it very quickly. I looked forward to the expansion and picked it up along with the promos during the 2012 BGG.con. It was very nice that the fixed card stock was there to pick up at the same time. Great service by Stronghold.

The introduction of the faction tokens and the extra action made for an even deeper (too deep for some) experience. It almost made the game a niche game within a niche hobby. I found that the addition was well worth the cost. Still the game was only getting played occasionally and not in the game group anymore due to what became a lengthy play time. I still played it with the family with much shorter play times (30 minutes per player) and found those occasional plays very enjoyable.

SoloPlay Core Worlds Design Comments:
As a result Core Worlds fit the bill for a SoloPlay design because it possessed a high level of challenge and was not being played that often due to its long play time. I had to do something about this. Where to begin?

Just play normally and see how it goes
I did this once or twice. What a snoozefest. Without competition for the actions I could just play my cards and do pretty much whatever I wanted to. As many know that I don’t approve of solo variants (official or not) where the goal is to tally the highest score ever. Then you can just keep beating your high score. Nope, sorry. Thanks for playing.

What to address first?
I targeted the luck of the draw first. I think that knowing what you are powering up for is important to building a strategy. I felt that this was a weakness in the original design but not something that I house-ruled or anything. So there, Galactic phase is first.
Now I want choices, I kept the 2 player card layout quantities (minimum of 2 world/non-worlds). I also wanted some say on the cards that were going to be out there. A little tweak and you had some options with the “4th” card of a type. I felt that this offered enough decisions for the solo variant. Still the lack of competition was a concern. Here I started to think about the game The New Era (51st state) and how it uses distance to lay down cards. What if I work with this idea?

Designing the universe
I tried laying the cards out in a line, then in a pyramid and then in a pseudo-grid. I could tell that this idea was going to work but that I did not have the right feel of traversing the universe. It seems simple now but an orbit design was born that permitted the AI to function in an expected fashion and provided options to the soloist to manage his energy. There was not enough pressure on the energy and this setup was put together to provide it. Having the AI “orbit” the galactic center while you could go anywhere was a revelation that balanced the round play nicely.

Balancing the cards
Any who have played the game for a while know which cards are better than others and which worlds are better than others. I went about trying to balance this based on my experience (that is all I had to go on). Tactic cards needed a little incentive as did heroes and robots. This was worked out by adding the energy cost to maintaining units over the count of 3 (there from the start) if the units were not heroes and not robots. The tactics cards were addressed by the reaction matrix. Don’t underestimate the move the AI 1 to 5 spaces. It is very handy. The cards themselves needed very little adjustment. I found that the card texts were all straight forward and made sense to both the soloist and the AI. This was further balanced by eliminating the AIs starting world. It was interesting how much that helped.

Designing the AI
It was very apparent that the only AI that was going to work here was a reactionary one. What needed to be figured out is if you did ____ the AI would do ____. Given how often each action is normally performed I setup the decision matrix. This required some additional balancing to account for all of the various situations that might arise. Once I did this I tried to simplify the process as much as possible. Starting with only the base game it seemed to out well but on the tough side. Not wanting to overreact I continue to play test getting pummeled game after game. What did I do?

All through this time I was starting to see that I was not taking in all of the processes in play. My focus on the AI reaction needed to be more in the forefront. I had to balance taking the action I want with the one I want the AI to take. Yeah, that’s simple. Not really, but I started to get it.

I pulled out some small victories and then reached a master victory. I thought that I broke the design but then I went on another string of bad losses. Eventually I tightened up my play and got into the groove of working with what the game was willing to give and was very competitive. Balance was achieved.

Wait there is an expansion to consider
At this point I rolled in the expansion and really only had to address the way the faction tokens were being used and how the AI scored them. This was a little trickier than I thought that it would be. The elephant started putting pressure on the design. The scores started to swing wildly from game to game. I had to re-learn what I had learned the first time around.

Ultimately I needed to use a scoring modification to balance the use of tokens. It was just too strong for the AI. This was the only “clunky” part that I had to leave to ensure that all of the strategies were balanced.
Other than this there was little else that needed to be dealt with except that I kept losing. This continued until the last week of playtesting. I figured out better to balance the cards coming into play and weighing this against the actions that I needed the AI to take. It looked good.

Wrapping it up
As with all of these projects I am concerned with game balance and a challenging experience and I doubt myself right up until the end. Using only my experience with the game I might overlook something and experts will tear it apart. Ultimately, I felt that the balance was as good as it going to get so leave it alone. Perform the rules edits and add a bit of graphic design (sample turns and a player aid) and we finish this up.

Goal of the rule design
1. Make the variant interesting to play.
2. Increase the competition.
3. Trim back the random elements to keep the control with the solo player.
4. Take into account the various approaches that you can take to be successful and try to add a couple more viable paths.

Comments are always welcome.

Strategies:
1. Energy management
2. Control the AIs reactions but sequencing your actions properly.
3. Know when to pass.
4. Sometimes conserving actions is more important than executing a “necessary” action.
5. It is all about the Core Worlds. There is no guarantee that you will be able to get the world(s) that you want.

Final Thoughts

This was a fun one to design if a bit involved. I put this design in the same vein as my Innovation design.

Setup time: about 6-8 minutes
Play time: about 45-60 minutes

If you have questions about the rules, you can be post them here or to this user’s mailbox to be answered individually, if needed. I will add a FAQ to this post as I see the need.

Other games that will be/are available from SoloPlay/GameRulesforOne are posted within a Geeklist that I created:
SoloPlay Variants Posted on the Geek

All new variants and information about upcoming projects will be listed there.

SoloPlay Motto:
A game that sits in a closet is a waste. Get it out and play it any way you can. These are just my ideas.

Design comments end here. My design blog finishes this post.

Core Worlds Notes (Blog):
Update 10/2/13: Core Worlds OK, after that quick spontaneous break I am back to this project. I had a play through with the base rules (SoloPlay ideas) and lost as expected. It played cleanly and contains a spatial (or should I say 'space'al) component or at least I am trying to work one in that puts pressure on your energy production and unit deployment.

My focus here is on energy, eliminating the luck of the draw (turn of the cards during the action phase, not those from your deck) and providing a new set of decisions to make.

I am playing base right now (haven't done that in a while) before I roll in Galactic Orders. This design is in its mid-stage. I will log updates when there are significant changes.

Update 10/23/13: Core Worlds I played through the variant a number of times last night trying to add that something special that drives the design to the finish. I didn't quite get it. I am still with base only. I can't wait to add the expansion.

More to come.

Update 10/25/13: Core Worlds Played through 3 or so more contests and am starting to settle on a design for the "system". There is a spatial component that I am working in that the player can guide your opponent indirectly through your decisions. There is pressure on maintaining units and getting from place to place. This is holding down scores as I try to balance the need for attack strength against getting more power to maintain my economy.

I have yet to win a game although I have been very close. I don't count an easy game victory as a true victory. I have had a couple of those. In the last game 1 more turn would have been enough to get it done. I was short 1 energy to "travel" to the planet. Oh, by the way, there is a new action: travel (fly or whatever I end up calling it). It is making a difference.

Update 10/30/13: Core Worlds I am settling into the setup that will likely become the final product. The 'universe' choices are interesting enough and the affect it has on your energy consumption is necessary to make the play 'competitive'. Your AI works off of a simple reaction matrix based on the position of the universe's central core.

I am trying different strategies to try and break the design and I thought that i came up with an idea to do just that. I executed it and won by a significant margin. With the next play I lost. My energy production was too low and the cost to maintain my military was too high crippling my last 2 rounds. That was nice to see but still I want to be sure.

Update 11/2/13: Core Worlds Things are checking nicely. I made a slight adjustment to the decision matrix for the AI and everything tightened right up. Wins are starting to come now as I am learning how to control what the AI is capable of. Managing your energy is crucial as it should be. Any time that you can save a little is worth it, most times. Knowing when to pass is crucial as well.

The base game along with drafting the zero cards is working fine and is very challenging. I have tried different paths to success and most of them seem to be viable. I can't say that I have won but I saw that a win could have been had I played it differently. So I feel comfortable with how this is going.

I am going to start and lock in the rules for the base game and now start to work on the inclusion of Galactic Orders. This is going to be interesting and take things to another level. I am looking forward to this. More to come. I am not that far off from getting this one completed.

Update 11/8/13: Core Worlds I am still working through a detailed first draft of the rules integrating the expansion as I go. This is taking a bit longer as I try to make sure the text placement is good.

I played 3 games the other day and lost all 3. I had a streak going where I was eeking out victories or at least being very competitive. These losses were just bad. To my credit I was trying to break the design and couldn't get a keep the units out until a better world shows up. The energy cost is just atrocious. I am liking that the 'known' or 'preferred' method of scoring well has to be figured out again.

I have my ideas of the best approach but it is dependent on the way that cards show up. The robot victory approach was particularly sweet as I had not tried this to the extreme before. The reduce maintenance cost of the robots helped to make it work. There is a balance that you need to achieve.

I have tried to focus on the AI to stunt his points but this is often too hard to accomplish unless the cards help with the focus. I am finding that analyzing the 'universe' each round is crucial to determine the sequence that you need to proceed. In the solo environment you can take your time and work through the permutations. There is no way that i would tolerate myself doing this in the multi-player environment.

Update 11/18/13: Core Worlds We had company all of last week so it was slow going (only 1 playtest with Galactic Orders). However, I did get a chance to work on the rules and have worked in most of the expansion ideas into the rules and performed a couple of edit drafts.

The base SoloPlay rules are complete. I noted that the expansion might need a little bit of tweaking to ensure that it is balanced right. The last time I played I was not that far off from my regular score range but I needed to get 1 more core world and I just did not have the firepower. I settled on a prestige card and then ran the fuel tanks empty to prevent the AI from getting an extra turn. It still ended up in a loss.

With the expansion I want to make sure that the points the AI gets from the order tiles (faction tokens) is not too far afield. I hope to be done by next week.

Update 11/19/13: Core Worlds Back into full playtest mode. Played through the variant with the expansion 3 times and lost all 3 by a healthy margin. I tried different techniques and still fell short. I have modified some things slightly to give the system some air and will see how that goes.

I performed another rules read through and found numerous areas to tighten up. Nothing bad just grammatical mistakes and a few changes that I made that I neglected to update.

Update 11/20/13: Core Worlds Well I finally won a nail biter of a game 31 to 30 but I still lost 2 pretty badly. The small rules adjustment seems to be OK and is simple enough to remember. In those last 2 sectors you need to be on your game to not only charge forward but to defend as well. I don't quite have a handle on it. The challenge is definitely there.

Update 11/21/13: Core Worlds Success, my first perfect victory. Riding the tactic card that saves 4 energy over the last 2 rounds to deploy my world ship and then by pulling off tokens from a guild to garner enough fleet strength to conquer a core world as my last action. 10+ is a perfect victory and I won by 11.

I was able to get through the mine field of events as I deployed before the +1 deployment came out, conquering and buying that round. I then gradually built up to my final force which was just enough to gather up the Raven core world with my deployments spreading out to 3 factions helping it score better.

I felt in control most of the way although I have felt this way before but lost badly. I let(wanted) the AI take the -1 world which gave it the edge in energy permitting me to use the surges that I retained to pump up my possibilities. The tricky part was navigation as I had to perform a full 'burn' to get to a "corner" prestige card which caused the AI to skip over Raven and ultimately take another core world. This was a 4 point swing on core worlds and gave me the perfect game.

The adjustments I made to the rules has helped to bring about this balance. We will see if this holds up.

I performed a complete rules edit yesterday as well prior to my play.

Update 11/22/13: Core Worlds 2 games played last night with a 4 and 7 point win. Getting to 3 worlds to permit deck thinning and then buying vehicles and cruisers paid off in the 7 point win as getting the 11F/0G 7 point world and the 14F/0G core world combo'd nicely into the deck I put together. I was a little concerned about the core world that the AI picked up but since I controlled him on the order cards I could keep his buying practices in check.

I full re-write was performed last night after the 2nd game. I am still smoothing out the rules and need to add some visual aids. Hopefully by the end of next week this project will be completed.

Update 11/25/13: Core Worlds A couple of bad game losses to put me back in my place after a string of decent victories. I tried a slightly different focus and I ended up with no focus. I needed to leave more worlds out there for the AI to take as opposed to cards.

On the upside I put together the SoloPlay Core Worlds Universe Template. It turned out better than I thought that it would and communicates a great deal of information with little text. It made the playtesting that much more pleasurable. Still on track.

Update 12/02/13: Core Worlds With the Thanksgiving holiday and my kids new found focus on Eclipse I have had little time to play test but that did not stop me from performing a complete scrub of the rules. I had to get away to do that.

Where I am right now:
1. There are 3 modes of play with or without the expansion (I guess that would make 6): easy, normal and full game(experts only here, very challenging)
2. The universe template has been fleshed out and works nicely although not completely necessary.
3. You will play against a reactionary AI which I have spent most of the playtest time balancing and streamlining trying to take into account all of the variables in play.
4. A navigation element has been included to put pressure on your energy usage and create the competitive balance.
5. I finished last night a 2 round play example to visually explain how the game flows.

What's left?
1. Another full scrub of the rules. Pending this the project will be complete. I have already noted many inconsistencies in the rules with some of the late wording changes that I made. I will try to complete this over lunch today.

Update 12/03/13: Core Worlds A full scrub of the rules was performed and updated and I thought that I was in pretty good shape. I converted the file to a .pdf and then I noted that I still had some issues. Running out of time last night I decided to finish things up today and post this evening if all goes well.

Update 12/05/13: Core Worlds Everything went well and the file was uploaded last night and approved early this morning by the every friendly BGG Admins. Enjoy the challenge.
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Stephen Buonocore
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This is great. Very thorough and thought-out. Thanks for doing this.

May I suggest that you create a file (Word doc) and add it to the files section? It would be easy for people to then print out and use when trying this neat Solo Variant.

Thanks!!

Thanks,
Stephen M. Buonocore
Stronghold Games LLC
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evilone wrote:
This is great. Very thorough and thought-out. Thanks for doing this.

May I suggest that you create a file (Word doc) and add it to the files section? It would be easy for people to then print out and use when trying this neat Solo Variant.

Thanks!!

Thanks,
Stephen M. Buonocore
Stronghold Games LLC
The file has already been posted to the Geek in .pdf format. Word documents have been nothing but trouble due to the nature of the internet (global environment and all). The .pdf has been the most universal. It also makes for a smaller file size.

Thanks for your comments and the service that you rendered at BGG.con last year. I picked up the expansion and promos from you.
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Mike Burkstrand
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Thanks for posting this- I have had fun the last 2 days playing through.

I will say I have been crushed each of the first 3 games I have played. It is definitely more challenging than playing with others. Still need to learn what the best tactics are for the solo edition- not sure how comparible they are to playing with others.
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mburkstrand wrote:
Thanks for posting this- I have had fun the last 2 days playing through.

I will say I have been crushed each of the first 3 games I have played. It is definitely more challenging than playing with others. Still need to learn what the best tactics are for the solo edition- not sure how comparible they are to playing with others.
I shared your experience for a long time. I then figured out how to manipulate the AI by my choices and take my blinders off to the possibilities. I came up with new ways to play in the multi-player realm as a result. So there was a side effect for me.

As I noted, playing with the expansion and events is whole 'nother level.
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Chad Mestdagh
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I too love what you have done with this variant! It is fantastic and difficult. But I do have one question. In the rules, it seems to indicate that when you cross over the center two spaces, you must place the token there. But the board itself seems to indicate that you only place the token there when you want to take out a loan for one energy. Which is it?

Also, can you choose to stay in the center two spaces?
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radchad wrote:
I too love what you have done with this variant! It is fantastic and difficult. But I do have one question. In the rules, it seems to indicate that when you cross over the center two spaces, you must place the token there. But the board itself seems to indicate that you only place the token there when you want to take out a loan for one energy. Which is it?
This is optional. If you have the energy you can traverse the center spaces up to your limit. You are not obligated to "take a loan".

radchad wrote:
Also, can you choose to stay in the center two spaces?
Absolutely, see sample game (last page) of the rules to confirm this. The only limit is that the space must be unoccupied by the time that you have completed your interaction (acquire/buy) or in the case of the center there are no cards. An energy token does not count as filling a space.

Enjoy
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Bruce Gazdecki
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Is this variant something someone who has never played the game before could understand and play, or do you really need to have a couple plays under your proverbial belt to know how to play first?

Bruce
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Bruiser419 wrote:
Is this variant something someone who has never played the game before could understand and play, or do you really need to have a couple plays under your proverbial belt to know how to play first?

Bruce
This is a very challenging variant to play. There are rules that make the play easier especially if using only the base cards.

If you are new to the game, I would start there. It may take you a bit to achieve a victory but hopefully you see yourself improving.

I consider myself very experienced with Core Worlds and was beating the base game about 70% of the time. With the expansion this dropped to less than 50% although in my last few plays I reached a new level of play.

If you are patient and like a good challenge, this may be something that might interest you.
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Just want to chime in and say great job with this variant, Bryden! Seriously, really solid, challenging, and thinky gameplay. I've played a few times in the past couple of weeks and love it. I've enjoyed many of your SoloPlay variants, and this one is the most AP inducing.

If you're curious, you can see my plays:
HERE and HERE

Thanks again for all your work with all of the SoloPlay variants. Much appreciated!!

Mo
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Ava Jarvis
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Hello! I greatly enjoy this variant. Will there be additions made for the new expansion, Revolutions?
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BilboAtBagEnd wrote:
Hello! I greatly enjoy this variant. Will there be additions made for the new expansion, Revolutions?
Depends on if/when I get a copy of the expansion. No time frame at this point.
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One question before I go ahead with making a tutorial video for this wonderful variant (I will post it in the video section when I'm done)—when the player invades a planet successfully, do they move into the space that the planet occupied, like with other cards?

Thanks!
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BilboAtBagEnd wrote:
One question before I go ahead with making a tutorial video for this wonderful variant (I will post it in the video section when I'm done)—when the player invades a planet successfully, do they move into the space that the planet occupied, like with other cards?

Thanks!
Yes, you do. I look forward to your video. Thanks for doing it.
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Ava Jarvis
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The tutorial videos are up. I actually made a basic (core) concepts video so that anyone unfamiliar with Core Worlds can understand the base game tutorial, and the Galactic Orders tutorial I created separately.

Here are the links:

Core Worlds: Basic (Core) Concepts
SoloPlay Core Worlds: Base Game Tutorial
SoloPlay Core Worlds: Galactic Orders Tutorial

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This is a seriously impressive variant which has saved a game I love but my other half does not particularly enjoy. I'm getting toward the correct way to play, but one thing still remains unclear - the player cannot end the round on a card, but can they pay energy to move onto a card to draft/invade an adjacent one and then be pulled onto that now-empty space?
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nickster1970 wrote:
This is a seriously impressive variant which has saved a game I love but my other half does not particularly enjoy. I'm getting toward the correct way to play, but one thing still remains unclear - the player cannot end the round on a card, but can they pay energy to move onto a card to draft/invade an adjacent one and then be pulled onto that now-empty space?
Yes this is a way to gain a corner card. You must be able to draft or invade that card.
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Steve Marano
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Just wanted to double check before I make any decision on purchasing the Revolution expansion. Is it playable with the SoloPlay variant, and if not have you decided on whether you might support it?
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smarano wrote:
Just wanted to double check before I make any decision on purchasing the Revolution expansion. Is it playable with the SoloPlay variant, and if not have you decided on whether you might support it?
I now own a copy of that expansion. I have not investigated the inclusion of the expansion but desire to do so.
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GameRulesforOne wrote:
smarano wrote:
Just wanted to double check before I make any decision on purchasing the Revolution expansion. Is it playable with the SoloPlay variant, and if not have you decided on whether you might support it?
I now own a copy of that expansion. I have not investigated the inclusion of the expansion but desire to do so.

We desire you do so as well.

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First, thanks for the updated rules for Revolution. Second, I have a question about them:

When I build an Advancement, and there are NO energy loans in the center two spaces, I do NOT pay the extra energy, correct? That’s only if there is an energy loan already in the space I’m moving into. I simply move into one of the center spaces, pay the standard 1 action, and the standard energy cost on the Advancement. Yes?

Thanks!!
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mo7189 wrote:
First, thanks for the updated rules for Revolution. Second, I have a question about them:

When I build an Advancement, and there are NO energy loans in the center two spaces, I do NOT pay the extra energy, correct? That’s only if there is an energy loan already in the space I’m moving into. I simply move into one of the center spaces, pay the standard 1 action, and the standard energy cost on the Advancement. Yes?

Thanks!!
That is correct. Only if there is a token there are you required to pay.
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GameRulesforOne wrote:
mo7189 wrote:
First, thanks for the updated rules for Revolution. Second, I have a question about them:

When I build an Advancement, and there are NO energy loans in the center two spaces, I do NOT pay the extra energy, correct? That’s only if there is an energy loan already in the space I’m moving into. I simply move into one of the center spaces, pay the standard 1 action, and the standard energy cost on the Advancement. Yes?

Thanks!!
That is correct. Only if there is a token there are you required to pay.

Thanks! That’s what I figured. It’s mentioned twice in the rules, and one was more clear than the other. Just figured I’d check.

I’m halfway through my first game after adding in Revolution. It’s not looking good for a victory. But I love it.
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Tony Vermorgen
Belgium
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Thank you so much for posting this solo variant.I am
new to this game and enjoying it. Thanks Again.
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Liam O'Caoimh
Ireland
Model Farm Road
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BilboAtBagEnd wrote:
The tutorial videos are up. I actually made a basic (core) concepts video so that anyone unfamiliar with Core Worlds can understand the base game tutorial, and the Galactic Orders tutorial I created separately.

Here are the links:

Core Worlds: Basic (Core) Concepts
SoloPlay Core Worlds: Base Game Tutorial
SoloPlay Core Worlds: Galactic Orders Tutorial


Where can I find the game mat printout you used in the Base Game Tutorial?
 
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