Recommend
4 
 Thumb up
 Hide
3 Posts

Automobiles» Forums » Variants

Subject: Designing the SoloPlay Variant for Automobiles rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
SoloPlayGames
United States
Ohio
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
This thread describes/discusses the design and development of the Automobiles SoloPlay variant.

Note: Not for Solo only The pace car system can be used for multi-player games. I will never play without it in <4 player games. The mechanics expansion contained within will also work with more than 1 player.

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

Automobiles SoloPlay Rules

This file is #64 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: Create an easy to play solo racing game. The series mechanics were a bonus.

Preface:
I like the idea of Automobiles better than the other bag builders out there (Hyperborea and Orleans (Altiplano was not available then)). I felt that the racing mechanic was going to be easier to work with and require less teaching to get the players engaged. Ever since the game was purchased I have had the opportunity to teach it to other players. When the games ended I did not have a single negative comment. This is rare. It has a streamlined feel that I wish that more games could inject into their design.

The issue with the game is that you really need to have at least 4 cars on the track to get the full experience. I added pace cars to a couple of our games and it worked so easily that I saw solo potential. It took getting the Destination Travel Pack (yes, that one) to prompt me into diving more into the design. The extra tracks were great to have.

SoloPlay Automobiles Design Comments:

Where to begin?
The pace car actions drove the initial design and it did not stray far from what they brought to the table. You have to have the drafting be a part of the game otherwise the focus on certain cards becomes too focused. I started by playing with 2 but soon added all 4 of them.

It was important that they mimic you making your car better which meant that in the early game they were a little slower and then they sped up later in the race. I think that the 5 lap race is the best experience as it gives you a chance to get your engine (pun intended) working properly and be able to come from behind. The pace cars were patsies early on but after a few tweaks were soon getting in the way a lot, just like regular human drivers.

While this was fine for single races I wanted more engaging race dynamic and this is where the expansion steps in.

Expanding the Possibility

I likes the idea of continuing the developing experience by playing out a series. I used the drivers and the sponsors and initially liked the additions. However, after a couple of races I became underwhelmed with the sponsors. The drivers were fine and changed the way that I approached each series but the sponsors after the 2nd race had almost no impact on my play. To me the fun part is managing your bag and refining your car/engine as you drive your car. With the sponsors, I just found myself focusing on a couple of them and using them only to shed wear cubes. They were too singularly focused.

I set them aside while I focused on the drivers when I hit upon an idea to develop a new card type the mechanic. In racing each team has a head mechanic who leads a team which tears down an engine and rebuilds it for each race. Parts wear out and start to break down. I wanted to emulate this in the game and see how this could be applied.

Adding New Mechanics

Yeah, I know. I am full of puns in this one. Sue me if you can find me.

I started by outlining what the goal of a good bag was and what size (number of cubes) bag pool provided the strongest engine. I focused the mechanics on tearing down your bag and then provide you with some enhancement. When I first did this some of them were crazy and very disrupting. I had the best car in the last race and now I have a turd that I cannot put back together. Also, like with the sponsors, I started to focus on a couple of key mechanics as the others were not really a choice. As I played out each series I started to tailor the mechanics into real options. The whole thing started to take shape.

The real test was oddly enough to test out the mechanics in a multi-player game and I found that we were both changing our mechanics just about every race. This did not happen with the sponsors. It was working as designed. I do not want to say this was easy to develop. I had to look at each of the cards critically against the others to determine if I would consider the mechanic for the next race. There are times where the choice was very interesting. At this point the game that I liked for the first 2 races of the series was now continuing through all 5 of the races.

We have got to keep track of things

Just stop that.

The pads included in the expansion worked perfectly, 5 races and 5 columns. Sweet. As I would record each race I started to notice patterns and opportunities to add a little more to the design. I thus built a scoring system that was more dynamic than the base rules. The goals had to fit the mechanisms and bag sculpting actions that the players should be performing. There had to be room to experiment and possibly press hard for a big win.

Once again this took a few passes to get right. Some came naturally (no wears in your bag at the end of the race) while others (bag pool size) was a little harder to balance initially. The races started to have a more 3-dimensional feel as you try to win the race, build a bag to score well and then set yourself up to get the best mechanic possible. Also, let’s not forget getting the best action cubes.

After 100+ races you certainly start seeing patterns in buying habits but this is where the drivers you get helps out. They do enough to alter your approach ever so slightly giving you a different focus. This is also where I noted that a couple of the drivers were a little more powerful than others. They all feel a bit over the top but a couple maintained higher win rates, in multi- and solo plays. I was a bit reluctant to nerf them but in the end decided to address it. You can still use them at full power but those games would be considered easy mode.

Lastly a few of the cards needed to be addressed due to the solo environment. These were no big deal as the changes were very minor.

Wrapping it all up

I knew that I was going to have to build a player aid to help keeping the scoring and the pace car speeds right in front of you. When I put it together it made playing each race a breeze. Why did I not do this from the start? This is a case where having the same color cubes as the cars made everything so much easier to work with.

Once this was done it was series after series of racing. I even had my son play a couple of series as he has a strong grasp on the mechanisms. We played an epic series where I led almost all of the way until the last race where he could take the series and he did. He really worked the mechanics with some timely switches. He was getting stronger as I was stagnating a bit. A couple of favorable draws in that last race might have pulled it out for me.

As I mentioned, I played more than 100 races when all was said and done. It was so many that my board started to show wear as I needed to tape it back together. This is one thing about devising solo variants that I enjoy. My games get much more play than many other games I am sure.

The last bit was the fact that some of the tracks (Talladega in particular) are dull if played early and more exciting if later in the season. Thus I had to create a sequencing rule that helps to bring out the full experience by reducing the variability. Again all of those plays indicated that this was a simple matter to address. And with this the design was completed.

Goal of the rule design
1. Make an interesting solo racing game (lower the mundane and redundancy)
2. Focus on the bag building elements
3. Increase the tension and planning
4. Increase replayability

Comments are always welcome.

Strategies:
1. In a series it is all about mechanics and your transition between races.
2. Internalize the pace car mechanics so that you can better anticipate the ways that they will interfere with your actions.
3. Balance your buying habits and alter them each race as needed.

Final Thoughts
David created an excellent game with Automobiles. The smoothness of the play and the interaction between the players is excellent. It has never failed to provide a good experience. I hope that the additions/alterations that I made help to enhance instead of detract from his core ideas. This one was fun playing and putting together and I will still pull one out after all of those races that I played over that month of testing.

Setup time: about 10-15 minutes
Play time: 30-45 minutes per race.

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.
2 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ted Duby
United States
Honolulu
Hawaii
flag msg tools
badge
If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I have read the rules, but don't understand how you pay for your mechanic. Do you remove cubes from your bag permanently based on their cost in order to pay?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
SoloPlayGames
United States
Ohio
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
MajorOracle wrote:
I have read the rules, but don't understand how you pay for your mechanic. Do you remove cubes from your bag permanently based on their cost in order to pay?
Yes,you pay with cubes from your bag returning them back to the cards for potential later purchase. Depending on your position in the race each mechanic "tears down" your engine to give you a "benefit" (remove wear, buy cubes etc.).

Additionally, depending on if you want to keep the same mechanic from race to race he may want to be paid extra for your performance result.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls