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Subject: SoloPlay variant for Dominant Species is now available rss

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SoloPlayGames
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This thread describes/discusses the design and development of the Dominant Species SoloPlay variant.

Well this one was a bear to come up with and not make it a complete mess. Given the fiddly nature of the game and all of the moving parts I had to try and streamline out all of the fiddly bits. There is still a little bit in there but this variant certainly flows a lot better than it originally did. The game is still long for a solo game but given the nature of this “civ” game it could not be avoided. I must say that I enjoy this game much more than I ever have before. This may be another one where the solo variant is better than multi-player (primarily due to the much shorter play time).

The download is available using the following link(s):

Dominant Species SoloPlay Rules

This file is #58 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 solo variant that would maintain the essence of building up your species and include as many real choices as possible.

Preface:

I remember when I first heard about Dominant Species coming out as it was getting a great amount of praise for its design. I remember reading the rules for the first time and I was amazed at the clarity of the words. It was still a bit overwhelming to understand how this all fit together. At the next con that I was to attend in Atlanta I wanted to play this if given the opportunity. The play was OK but just as many have mentioned … a bit long.

The teacher of the game did the same things over and over and so I started to mimic his play and expand across the landscape. It all felt very abstracted and not very thematic. I did not mind the toned down appearance of the original game as it helped to maintain focus on the pieces (which were many) instead of losing them in the jungle etc. I was underwhelmed by the play but saw the potential.

It was not until 2016 that I actually picked up a copy as I thought that my kids might enjoy this. They love Mage Knight the Board Game and easily process everything going in. DS was another thing though. They just thought that it was too long and that there was too much conflict. We had a few plays but after that it sat in the game closet.

However, I saw something in this game (due to my development of the Pret a Porter variant) that I could work with to be able to play it solo. Little did I know how long this would take?

SoloPlay Dominant Species Design Comments:

Where to begin?

The game is very open. I knew that you could not be permitted to choose every action each turn as you could just play the same game over and over again and what fun is there in that? I had to develop a restrictive system that mimics others blocking the “eyeballs”.

I tried something similar to Pret a Porter but it did not work. It was too restrictive and did not make sense in many cases. Uh oh … now what? What do I have to work with? The element disks … yeah that could work!

What started it all

I noted a relationship between the action spaces and the number of elements in the game. They tied out! What a stroke of luck. I decided to place the element tokens on the action spaces and then to limit the player to only choosing one type of element each turn to perform actions. This meant that some actions might not be available because the element that you wanted to use was not in the action area you wanted to use. This created the feeling of being blocked without having to place more hardware on the eyeball spaces.

This got things started but some of the actions were very underpowered in the solo environment. Why choose those and not just speciate, migrate and dominate every turn? This did pose a problem and almost stopped the entire design. I had to step back for a bit to create something that was simple to understand and intuitive.

It took a couple of passes with this but finally it came together with a few scoring incentives and additional restrictions. The 2 that I most enjoyed coming up with was the one for the initiative track and the speciation action. In retrospect it seems obvious what should be done with speciation but it did not come to me that quickly.

Playtesting was a beast

I insist on playtesting these variants to death to ensure that all of the actions are balanced, that I have real choices and that the game is different each time I play. Due to the length of each play this was taking forever and when something felt broken it would throw everything off track.

With each pass more clarifications to the rules were needed (streamlining was a heavy focus). I do not recall having to have the rules with me all of the time to jot down issues as I came across them but this was necessary due to the game length. I would forget what the problems were that I found. This was very frustrating because I know that gamers would find the holes in the design and exploit them.

It was not until a couple of weeks ago when I came up with all of the right interactions where the variant felt complete. Those last 3 plays were tense as I focused on sequencing actions to be able to move my species across earth and to expand in optimal situations (sometimes letting the game expand to help me along – you will figure this out) was great. One game I had 2 extra pawns and ran out of actions to do losing the pawns that I gained and another game where I had my original 5 all game and thought all was lost except that it wasn’t.

I saw that I could set up an action sequence at the “turn” (round 7) that would help to slow down the game’s scoring. I could then leverage this turn to migrate heavily then focus on expansion controlling the game’s species population. This became very intriguing as I determined that you are never out of it no matter how bleak it looked.

Putting the Rules Together

This was a very high bar. The base game rules rank among the best in all of gaming, in my opinion. I have a style and template on how to put my variant rules together, which has changed a bit over time, but I felt it necessary to mimic the core design.

While I don’t think that I was completely successful, I tried to interject text where I thought it might be most beneficial when reading the rules. A card appendix was necessary, given the nature of the variant, to give each card purpose for both sides. I also added an annotated setup and a player’s aid to make it as easy for the soloist to follow as I could.

The game play flow is still much the same as the base rules which was intentional to keep the game rooted in its original intent. It took a great deal of crosschecking to ensure that one thing did not contradict something else.

Goal of the rule design

1. Provide an immersive Dominant Species game experience.
2. Make it feel like a real struggle to survive on earth.
3. Provide as much planning information as possible.
4. Maintain the smooth game flow and reduce the fiddly bits that are inherent in games such as this.

Comments are always welcome.

Strategies: Where to start?
1. Do not get too focused on how many points that the game is scoring but pay close attention to the your tundra presence. You are going to need to address this sooner or later.
2. Setting up for the mid game is big. Scoring is not that important in the early going but you need to have a plan to keep up or at least within range of your expected end game survival bonus.
3. Pay attention to the wanderlust and domination indicator cubes. These will dictate how the game expands its presence and resolves glaciation actions. If left unchecked, there will be a dark cloud on the horizon.
4. Make sure that you understand how the speciation and migration works in this variant. You don’t want to get stuck on one side of the world as the game is expanding the other.
5. The initiative track can play a crucial role in the 2nd half of the game. This may make it important to leave key “elements” behind so that you can activate them more than the “maximum” number of times.

Final Thoughts
This variant was work. It did not become a “game” until the very end for me. I was driven to make this work and it was wonderful when it all came together. I found the variant to be a very deep solo experience which took a great deal of thought and planning to control everything that was going on. I hope that those experienced players out there share this feeling.

Setup time: about 10-15 minutes (probably 15+ minutes in the early going)
Play time: 120+ 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.
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Alazṓn Theatre
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If this is where you have been for the last forever, then I forgive you entirely !!
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Daniel Mahdavi
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I applaud you for the perseverance! This looks like something I'd enjoy, so I shall give it a go.
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Leonidas I
Germany
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Hi,
has anyone tried this solo variant? Does it work?

I am a dedicated solo player, and this game consistently receives the highest praise, but unfortunately has no in-built solo rules. I would love to hear if this one works well enough to buy the game just for solo play.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

L
 
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SoloPlayGames
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Leonidas480 wrote:
Hi,
has anyone tried this solo variant? Does it work?
Biased opinion, it works.

Quote:
I am a dedicated solo player, and this game consistently receives the highest praise, but unfortunately has no in-built solo rules. I would love to hear if this one works well enough to buy the game just for solo play.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

L
Tough question whether to buy it to play only solo. It was worth the purchase having the variant. I really like the theme and the way the mechanisms work in this one.

I will leave the decision between you and your conscience. ;)
 
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Leonidas I
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Hi,
thanks for the prompt reply and the guidance, much appreciated. I have taken the plunge, taking advantage of the GMT sale. Let's see.

Regards,
L
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Pedro Miguel
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how did it work out? on the fence too...

Leonidas480 wrote:
Hi,
thanks for the prompt reply and the guidance, much appreciated. I have taken the plunge, taking advantage of the GMT sale. Let's see.

Regards,
L
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