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Subject: SoloPlay variant for Assyria is now available rss

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

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

This file is #26 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: Improve game value by providing a challenging solo variant that plays like the original.

Preface:
Assyria was one of the games that I was looking into last year as a possible Essen title to watch for but when the game was released the price was a bit more than I wanted to pay for a game. The reviews were fair and I was concerned about replayability so I decided to keep my eyes open for a deal on it. At a May gaming event someone was selling their copy of Assyria for $25 which was right in the price range that I was hoping for (it was the only game I bought that day) so I snapped it up.

I had read the online rules and so had a pretty good idea of the mechanics. There were quite a few little things to explain in those first plays but it turned out to be a fun gaming experience.

Not knowing when the game would get wide play exposure I started looking at developing a solo variant for it. The basic premise came together rather quickly. Since I had already started going down the road of working on The Princes of Florence I worked on both games side by side initially. Assyria came together faster but PoF was a higher priority for me. Once PoF was finished I came back to Assyria to finish the project.

SoloPlay Assyria Design Comments:

Using the normal rules there is a high level of competition for “turf” in this game. It was going to be important to address the board usage. I did not want to limit the board space as this may restrict game play variability. This was going to be one sticking point. There had to be a reason to “expand” across the rivers etc. A game goal was injected into the scoring to encourage the territorial expansion early in the design. It has had to be tweaked a few times to balance the scoring along with limiting the player’s starting location.

The real crux of the design that gives it its character is the new mechanic that I came up with for the hut (famine) markers. This was key to “spreading out” the player on the game board. The way you have to plan to have the markers available and how it can limit your use of intrigue is a very interesting component of the game. This more than anything adds to the strategic planning and play elements.

Next came the sowing and farming portion as the player needed to have a decision point here to make the selection interesting. Initially, I was just going to limit the player to a certain number of times that the “2nd” row can be chosen but then settled on a variable scoring penalty for choosing it. This also helped to add to the game leveling mechanics that I was putting in. The variable scoring penalty came after I finished PoF and returned to work on Assyria. I knew that I needed something in this area. It is a nice little twist.

The camels provided the biggest challenge because after all of the playtesting I found myself doing the same thing everytime and getting results that varied only slightly in the outcome. It was enjoyable but too samey. I knew that I was going to have to address this when I returned back to complete the design.

When I came back to my original design I found the game to be too easy. I don’t know if it was all of my playtesting of PoF that better focused my play or what but I was getting the highest level of victory every time. This is not acceptable. I had to work on giving the game multiple skill levels.

I tried placement restrictions but this further reduced the path to victory. I looked at increasing/adding scoring penalties but none of those seem to make sense. I then decided that I could use a technique that I used for Blue Moon City for the huts. This proved to be the key to giving the game its toughness. There are now 3 levels of play easy, normal and challenging. Needless to say I am only playing the challenging one now and have yet to get a Master level victory condition as of this writing although I am getting closer. This is what I desire in a solo variant a high level of challenge that is fair in its approach. To be successful at the highest level you will need to review all aspects of the variant design and plan ahead to be successful. Risky play can be rewarded but skillful execution will bring the victory home. I am back to losing again which makes it interesting to play for me.

Overall this is not a very complicated design to play. It stays very close to the original game design and plays quick.

Goal of the rule design
1. Give the game a quick playing feel.
2. Stay close to the original design.
3. Try not to limit the player’s options.
4. Increase the gaming challenge.

Comments are always welcome.

Strategies:
1. Plan ahead. You can see what food cards will be available in the next season and the # of expansions that you will be allowed.
2. Neglect the intrigue option at your peril. It is possible to get a win condition while just accepting the point hits but it is unlikely that you will achieve a Master level victory by ignoring it completely.
3. Review the end game scoring especially those for ziggurat placement. While it is not necessary to score big in this area you don’t want to take scoring penalties.
4. Controlling the famines that will inevitably happen is important. This can have a very negative scoring result or severely restrict your playing options. This is a key mechanic to review.

Final Thoughts

Setup time: about 5 minutes
Play time: about 30-45 minutes

The quickly strategic play it what has me enjoying this variant. It fits nicely in with some of my heavier designs like Agricola or Princes of Florence. While this game may not be on everybody’s radar as a must have game it is a very enjoyable experience whether it be solo or multi-player.

I hope you have fun with this variant and find that it provides a great deal of re-playability.

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.

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.

Assyria Design Blog:
Assyria Picked up 5/22/10. The solo game came together so easy that it is almost done. Tricky little devil though. I am trying to improve on replayability. The luck factor is almost completely removed.

Assyria - I wish all solo games could be completed as quick. I bought the game 2nd hand on 5/22/10 and played solo for the 1st time on 5/23/10. All of the rules are down on paper and I am currently trying to break the game trying all kinds of wacky stuff and nothing has come up other than a situation that shouldn't happen unless you are just planning poorly or too focused on 1 strategy (wells in this case). I have read the forums about how wells are too strong. I have yet to work a solely well strategy to a victory. The end game victory ratings are very tight 70/73/76/79 and I have won trying a variety of technics. Very nice change of pace. I would recommend Assyria for multi-player play as well if you can get it at a good price.

Update 6/2/10: I have been refining the rules for Assyria. As I was playtesting I reached a new plateau so the scoring range has gone up a bit with the addition of an easy win at 68 points. Its interesting how if you overcommit to a particular play at the wrong moment your game can collapse. Its like you have to resist the temptation and are forced to play conservative to achieve the bigger goal. Other times you can just run with it. 1 game everything just clicked and I played almost the perfect game being penalized only 1 point in the final scoring and getting 95 points. I tried to force the same play in the next game and I could not get it going either getting a low level victory or a loss. A go for broke well strategy is a loser. It puts way too much pressure on avoiding the famine. Playtesting continues as I try to break the camel track to determine if an adjustment is needed. So far it looks good. Rules are in the 3rd revision and remain a trim 3+ pages.

Update 6/4/10: It looks like Assyria is complete now although I am still playtesting(trying to break) the game. The rules are solid minus a setup photo shoot.

Update 7/8/10:Assyria With all my work on Princes of Florence now completed and the file uploaded on the 5th, I have gone back to continue finalizing Assyria. It plays as I remember except ... that I have gotten a lot better at playing it. I am testing my game leveling idea which is similar to what I did for Blue Moon City, limiting your huts in this case. It seems to rein in the scoring and bring a key element back into play. I was still able to achieve a high level victory with the limitation so this project will be delayed until I ensure that the game provides the right level of challenge for the experienced player. Also, I did not have a use for one of the bits and its been bugging me but then I saw a new little twist that I could use for it. I like the way it forces you to change your thinking. This is one of the reasons I spend so much time with these. There is always a new level that can be reached or a new twist that can be added. I am going to delay this one a week until next Saturday, 7/17/10, to ensure that the balance is achieved.

Update 7/15/10:Assyria Been away from the design for a bit. Multi-player opportunities, working on personal game designs, played a few Agricola solos (I love playing that one at the highest level) and a business trip were all squeezed in since the last update. I took Assyria along on my trip and dialed in the increased level of difficulty for the game. I then proceeded to playtest it and it is up there where I want it. I had grown out of the Easy and Normal levels of play and worked on adding the Challenging level. I discovered a new wrinkle that was cool to include which has to do with where you build your ziggurats and it adds to the potential strategies. This makes for a more varied experience. I updated the rules last night and will playtest over the next few days to make sure that I have not missed anything. It will be available by the end of the weekend.

Update 7/16/10:Assyria The rules have been completed and uploaded to the geek. Included is an example game setup to get the solo player off and running. 3 levels of gaming challenge have been included. There are not very many confessed owners of this title but if you get a chance to pick one up this solo variant will be worth your time. It plays well multi-player too. Next up???

Update 7/21/10:Assyria File available on the geek.
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D. L. Garner
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I just played using your solo rules and it worked really well! Thank you.

I had one clarifying question however, I assume when you place a hut on the dignitary track (replacing a well) that the well then goes back into the "game supply" and is available to mark unsupplied hexes, correct?

cowhollow.
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SoloPlayGames
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cowhollow wrote:
I had one clarifying question however, I assume when you place a hut on the dignitary track (replacing a well) that the well then goes back into the "game supply" and is available to mark unsupplied hexes, correct?

Answer: Yes, this is correct and a key component of the game. I would rather push those markers into the supply instead of letting the game create a void in the dignitaries potentially having a major impact on me later on down the line.
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