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Subject: A Strategy Review of the Solo game rss

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Eric Williams
Australia
Googong
New South Wales
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Playing the Government “faction” in Andean Abyss can be quite complex and daunting. Playing the Government AND the “bot” flowcharts can take that feeling up a notch or two. I believe it is well worth the effort. So much so that I thought I’d put together my thoughts and experiences on the solo variant of the game and maybe inspire (help?) a few more gamers into the wonderful world of “Andean Abyss”.

The solo campaign of Andean Abyss is a very different proposition to a multi player campaign as the Government. The main reason is that the “bots” don’t care about the other guerrilla factions’ victory conditions. Whilst they will try to advance their own cause and on occasion (usually ops) have a poke at each other, their primary aim is to make your life difficult. Indeed, if one guerrilla faction is set to win, the others may actively impede you from doing anything about it. You are the only one that will prevent the other three factions from winning.

The next reason is the number of events the bots will throw at you. They will play that shaded text even if it hurts the particular faction playing it as much as you! Due to the “second eligible NP faction will play the event if it can” rule, it is rare that you’ll get through a two card sequence without seeing an event played. The fact that most shaded text events do the Government no favours whatsoever can screw you badly.

Due to the number of events the NPC’s play, overall the guerrilla factions’ levels of activity are probably on a par with a multi player game. However, unlike you (the Govt), they do not have to deal with “limited Ops” situations and always Operate at full capacity plus specials. When two NPC factions “full Op + specials” in a turn it can have dramatic (negative) consequences on your efforts to contain them.

To conclude the “it’s different” introduction I’d add your (new) victory conditions and your inability to negotiate with the guerrilla factions. Unless you’re prepared to call a “stalemate” a victory, you WILL need more than 60 support. For the very illusive “COIN Triumph” 68 support can end up being the minimum unless you can keep all 3 NP factions well short. As for negotiation, the “bots” don’t fear the big stick you carry and nor can they be enticed by your resources. Such is the solo stare into the Abyss.


Each game starts the same. But they play out different every time.

So what is the best way to go about winning the solo game? After a lot of plays I can say with confidence that there is no hard and fast “best way”. In fact, I would argue that the more fluid and flexible you keep your strategy the better. But there certainly are some “good ways” to look out for and capitalise on.

Try not to get too captivated by what is on the board. It is too easy to get caught in loops chasing one or two factions around and achieve little or worse, open up voids for the third faction to exploit. Instead, take the time to read both cards on display. Study the eligibility orders of both. THEN study the board and work out what each faction is set to do. This can tell you which factions will rally and most importantly, which factions won’t (due to playing an event). But before you act, consider how your options might change the above reckoning. If you want to target a faction, try to make yourself eligible on the cards they aren’t. No war is fought well without good intelligence and this is the best intel you can get. You can time your sweeps at base area’s so as to avoid them rallying underground and (hopefully) get the opportunity to clear them via assaults on your next activation. This is of particular importance on the first turn. The important Departments of Antioquia and Huila will never likely be more vulnerable than at the start of the game. Unless the cards have cursed you, often one will likely not rally straight away giving you your best chance to clear it. Training is rarely the best first move.


The "go early" option. The next card shows AUC will event meaning our assault will succeed in Antioquia. If we get to play before FARC we'll get 'em in Huila too!

Learning to read ahead so you can (within reason) predict the NP actions is critical. Learning how your actions can change theirs is next. When there are a lot of cards between propaganda cards your resources can get dangerously low. Often you can buy some time with small targeted actions to force NP’s to rally or do something not too dangerous. Eradicate or airstrike might force a faction to rally (by opening up a base space) instead of them doing something more advanced and diabolical.


Eight guerrilla's. Put one more in this box and FARC will rally next Operation. Do you want them to?

Sometimes you can avoid sweeping them and instead let them come to you. If FARC is set to march it isn’t difficult to work out where they will march from and then possibly to. Position garrison forces accordingly and they won’t have any cushy “no activate” options meaning they’ll have to activate as they come at you.

Some of this may sound a bit too “easy” for those who have only experienced the multi player game. I can assure you it is not. Andean Abyss is a sophisticated game and trying to stay one step ahead of the three “bots” and manipulate them takes the sophistication to a new level. Gaining a “COIN Triumph” victory, or at the very least giving yourself a chance of one in each solo game you play will require your best play.

When it comes to the events what you should consider is the consequences of NOT taking them. “Ospina & Mora” and “Tapias” must be taken. The benefit is great, but the shaded text will doom you and has to be avoided if possible. “1st division” and “High Mountain Battalions” are two more I rarely let go due to the negative consequences if the NP’s play them. Events that shift support / opposition are high priorities also. FARC can come out of nowhere and steal the game away from you with these events. It is usually worthwhile – if possible – to try and play such events yourself just to avoid the NP playing them. Less critical but still worth considering are the events that will give the Government resources. The reason being that the flip-side of such events usually deducts resources away from the Government. Assess each one regarding your bank balance and the state of play. You will need to conduct plenty of Civic actions over the course of the game and they are expensive. There is almost always a good reason to grab resources when you can.


FARC! Either way this will hurt particularly early. I'd pass and take Ospina & Mora. Sweeps move troops for control and activate dangerous underground guerrilla's.

But regardless of card sequences, what your game is all about is building support whilst keeping the guerrilla’s short of their victory conditions. Even if “Ospina” or “Tapias” pop up, if a guerrilla faction has reached its victory conditions you’ll have to let the event go to deal with that faction. Not much point playing the event and then pack up the game...

For those new to the game and playing the Government it can often seem confusing how to go about building support. Support is something that will usually take time (and effort). Apart from events that can move public opinion, the only way you can be certain of gaining support is with “Civic Actions”. “Civic Actions” require both police and troops to be present. So getting police to the spaces you need them is a primary objective.

There are three ways you can get police into departments (and you’ll need to just to get 60 support, let alone 68!) There are events that can help. You can build a base in the department and then recruit police into it. The most efficient way is to control departments (control = having more pieces than all the guerrilla factions put together in the space). During the redeployment phase of a Propaganda Card you are allowed to redeploy police to those area’s you control. As such, each “campaign” you should be trying to take control of a department or two (or three) so you can get police into them. Put some effort into departments with opposition as they provide you with the best way to keep FARC’s score down by eliminating their support base.


Showing Police in two Departments after a Propaganda Phase. The troops had to redeploy back to base but the first phase of the job is done.

On the question of “Civic Actions”, unlike the multi player game you can’t win on the first three Propaganda cards. So try not to get too fussed (and spend too many resources and activations) on your own support in the first three campaigns. You win at the end. That’s when your level of support is relevant. So pushing it to “Active support” isn’t necessary early on and nor is spending a small fortune removing terror markers. Get rid of opposition certainly but try to make sure you have enough resources to operate in the next campaign.

The last campaign is a different story entirely. If the opportunity is there to turn an opposition area into an active support area with a train action, do it! You won’t often go wrong if you spend much of the final campaign pushing troops into populated areas, building bases and then recruiting police into them.

A few tips and tricks to help you on the way:

Don’t forget you can transfer resources to the Non Players. This is particularly handy with the AUC who often find themselves short. Instead of letting them pass, why not look at what they’d do with a resource or two? If it is terror in a FARC stronghold perhaps slipping them some cash isn’t a bad idea!

When targeting areas for sweeps and assaults, don’t just think FARC. If you hammer the Cartels and / or AUC you can turn them into 10 turn basket cases. The Cartels might only be able to rally in the one random location for cultivation for several turns. The AUC might get stuck with most of its guerrilla’s in one area constantly terrorising. This will keep them benign and allow you to focus for several turns on FARC.


Too good to miss! Eradicate will not only take out the two bases. It will consign a FARC guerrilla to the boon docks as all neighbouring spaces are at active opposition.

Be very careful with “Eradicate”. Sometimes you’ll have to take the hit because the Cartels are getting too big. But the Eradicate action can hurt public support – or increase FARC’s score. It can also provide rally opportunities for FARC which isn’t ideal if you just swept them.....

Don’t forget that you can use a Special Activity at any time during your full Op’s activation. Airlift before assaulting is a personal fave when some extra numbers are needed. Or better still, conduct one assault and then airlift those troops to the next one.

NEVER assume the NP’s, particularly FARC, can’t win. Don’t gamble if any of them are close. There are just too many events that can dramatically lift an NP faction and they usually occur at the worst possible times. “They” (the NP’s) can often get to a victory position in one card. You on the other hand often need two actions to drag them back. So if a faction is close, hitting them becomes the highest priority of all. If a faction has actually crossed the victory threshold then you absolutely must pull them back NOW! Regardless of cost.

As for the ground war, working north of the Bogota line is usually the best place to start. If you can gain relative security to the north the areas become less prone to march infiltrations. A garrison force in either Cucuta or Sincelejo can then deal with any random infiltrations allowing you to concentrate your forces to the south. Clearing Arauca is a good part of such a northern strategy and helps lock up your most valuable LoC’s.

Clearly I think Andean Abyss is a game well worth the time. It is rare to find a game that one can play solo against multiple enemies. Indeed, it is the only one I have in my collection. I pre-ordered AA before reading the rules for this reason alone and will end up owning every game that ever carries the “COIN series” tag because I know they will see plenty of table time. If you’re an AA veteran, hopefully I’ve given you an enjoyable read. If you’re new to the game roll up your sleeves and give Andean Abyss a go!
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Rob White
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Great read. Just stsrted playing last night a bit. Seems like it'll be tough to get government bases on the board. Or maybe that's not so important.
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Dustin
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shame it doesn't have different card art. I just can't over it to want to pick it up. which is odd, usually I'm never bugged about how a game looks.
 
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David
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SeerMagic wrote:
shame it doesn't have different card art. I just can't over it to want to pick it up. which is odd, usually I'm never bugged about how a game looks.
Hmmm. In my view it's one of the most attractive games that came out in 2012, I would have thought if you were swayed by how good a game looks (cards included) this would have been the first game you purchased this year

Great review.
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Stig Morten
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What is the playtime for your solo plays?
 
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Eric Williams
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Sorry guys, it should have gone under "Strategy" as it is a guide rather than a review of the game. And those photo's are all on their sides....

The solo playtime for the first game or two is 4+ hours. It is not just getting used to the flow charts but ensuring you get all the rules right. I made several mistakes with my initial games. Now I complete a solo game in about 3 hours.
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Ben Holle
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Great write up! I just finished my second solo game and scored a three - COIN Stalemate! I am counting it as a win.

I never thought to donate resources to the others. That would have helped me.

ecka wrote:
It is usually worthwhile – if possible – to try and play such events yourself just to avoid the NP playing them.


Or you can play an OP with no special activity. The 2nd eligible faction is barred from taking the event then.
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Eric Williams
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bholle wrote:
Or you can play an OP with no special activity. The 2nd eligible faction is barred from taking the event then.


Good pick up. Not my best wording...
 
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