Thursday, February 09, 2006

World of Warcraft Solitaire

Every once in a while you get a game that you know is going to be a tough sell to the rest of your group, but it looks so cool that you just can't help yourself. World of Warcraft (the boardgame, obviously) is one of those games. On the one hand, it has a very interesting character development system, great bits (even with the now-standard blue/green/red 8-crayons-to-a-box colors), an astonishingly clean set of rules, and enough variety in quests/characters/overlords to keep things interesting for many playings. On the other hand, the game can take a very long time and I suspect that downtime would be a huge issue (especially with six players). As such, the game only appears to really be feasible for four. Add in enough components to completely overwhelm most dining room tables, and this is a game that is likely only to come out a handful of times at best.

Which is a real shame, as FFG seems to have finally done a computer game franchise right (I won't count Doom or Warcraft w/ expansions, as you have to in effect purchase two games to get one good one). Fortunately for me, a kind soul put out a really great solitaire/cooperative set of rules on the 'Geek that makes this game extremely playable, not to mention fun.

The rules themselves are very simple - you play one side instead of two, so you always have turns with little downtime even if others are playing. If you are playing alone, you pick two characters, otherwise you play one character each with two or three players. To balance the shortage of independent critters on the board, there are a few changes to event cards, especially Old Hatreds, Creatures of Lornaedon, and War. In all of these, independent critters are placed based on a dieroll. Old Hatreds can be particularly brutal, as the critters are usually very big (Doom Guard, Drakes, etc), and if you don't take them out they end up helping the overlord at game end. I can specifically state that allowing them to get that far is a Bad Idea.

Rather than playing every turn, you simply start the turn marker on turn one or two depending on which faction you are playing (Horde take odd turns, Alliance even), and advance the turn marker two turns instead of one. You still do all of the events and goodie cards, but otherwise play is exactly the same. Obviously, there are no PvP wins, you must defeat the Overlord in your 15 turns or lose.

I played two solitaire games, as this monster takes a long time to set up and put away and I wanted to maximize my play time to box time ratio. First I played the Alliance, using the short Brunhilde priest and the midget with a gun. Sorry, I don't play the online version so I can't tell you what specific class they are (and really don't care). I made a couple of big mistakes in that I did not go after both of the Old Hatreds monsters, so I ended up with an extra Doom Guard to fight. I also had Kel 'Thuzzad (or whatever his name is, the guy with extra cards in the event deck). I drew three of the five cards during the game and so he was extremely strong by game end. I barely remembered I had to take time just to get to Stratholm to fight him, so both characters were short in terms of advancement (both halfway through level 4). As it was, they barely survived the first round, and only managed to have a couple of hit markers in the damage box after killing the Doom Guard lackey. Needless to say, they were toast before they could kill Kel. I also didn't realize how important buying Powers could be, as I was thinking you had to place them rather than have them handy to set up for specific opponents. Both characters ended up with close to 20 or more gp at game end, just sitting there doing nothing.

The second game saw me with two characters that didn't look that similar at first glance, the Horde Druid and the orc chick with cleavage and a spikey club, the one that there isn't an Alliance equivalent to (Shaman?). They start with different health/energy levels, but I hadn't noticed that they both had the same limitations on armor and weapons, so almost every single item card they drew was useless, certainly the ones from the merchant. Their opponent was the Really Big Dragon, Nekahoohoo or something. Nekahoohoo is interesting because he's on a timer of sorts - when you draw an event card, you advance Lil' Neky that many spaces across the board. When he gets to a specific space, you have to fight him no matter what shape you're in.

I actually aborted my Horde game about three turns in, as Neky was three spaces away from where he would end the game, and both of my characters had blown their dice in their first combats, effectively losing a complete cycle. When one lost again the second time (against a Murloc, how lame), I chose to concede to myself and start over. The second game, despite the lack of useful items and similarities of the two characters, went very smoothly and they beat the dragon rather decisively on the final turn of the game. If I had to pick a key play, it was going after the Old Hatreds Drake in tandem to avoid having to deal with it in conjunction with Lil' Neky, and at little cost to each player.

Game time took about two or three hours, although I did have to look up several rules in both cases that slowed me down. I also did not play the games all the way through on either playing, taking time to do chores, etc. FFG has a FAQ that covers errata, although it is mostly on the cards, and I highly recommend you have it handy for those times when a card has discarded terminology that doesn't make sense in the context of the published rules (some characters have text on their sheets that is incorrect as well). I did print out some stat tracking sheets that look very useful, but my poor table was completely overwhelmed by all of the components and even two more 8.5x11 sheets would have required an additional table leaf. I found myself able to quickly tally up dice at any rate, and by doing so I kept myself honest wrt paying energy for any instant powers I used.

The thing I like most about this game is the character development. You have 12 powers and 12 talents (the former earned through paying gold and/or energy to equip, the latter gained when you go up in level), and there are a few different combinations that allow the characters to focus in different directions. Since you are playing with at least two characters per side, but the max is three, I didn't feel that I was any more limited in terms of what combinations would work vs playing in a "real" game with four or six players. Combined with the variety of quests and overlords, this game has a huge replay value. Just getting to know the various characters well while playing two at a time would take at least a dozen playings, as the Horde characters, while sharing the basic Power/Talent deck in a given class, have different printed abilities in the slots of their character sheet, making them at least a little bit different from their Alliance counterparts.

I highly recommend this game using this system, it is good fun. Look on the 'Geek in the files section for something labelled "solitaire/cooperative", it's worth the trip.


Anonymous said...

I purchased the World of Warcraft board game, but I can't get friends or family to play. Can you place a link to your solitaire rules? All my google searches lead me here. P.S. I hope I'm not being rude by invading your web space.

Dug said...

I got the rules from the files section on the 'Geek. One thing that probably stumped you was that they are listed under "cooperative" rather than "solitaire" rules, although cooperative is just solitaire with more than one person!

Note that the rules are for the base game, not the expansions (and there will be situations with the new cards that require you to do some creative gaming to keep to the spirit of the game).

Good luck, and I hope you enjoy the solo rules. I usually play with two characters when I play solo, it's a bit tighter of a game that way.