Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Solo WoW

Interesting title. I'm referring, of course, to World of Warcraft, a game I'm reluctant to inflict on my group, but that I really enjoy solitaire. I've found that playing two characters is the best bang for the buck, and the least confusing. This time out, I tried a couple of Horde characters, the sneaky backstabber and the mage/zombie chick/guy. Talk about gender-ambiguous art.

While I enjoy the game, it takes a very long time to set up, and uses a lot of table space. Since I had a couple of spare Plano boxes of differing depths/configurations, I thought to use them to organize the pieces better than the little ziplocks I'd been using.


The thinner box is used for all of the smaller critters, and markers used during the game (money, health, energy, stuns, etc). The critters just fit. The thicker box I used for all of the prep materials: character figures, cards, and tokens; Quest markers, dice, things you take out once and are pretty much in use throughout the game. That box goes back in the big box, and off you go. While I was able to fit the small item cards in this Plano, the big cards, as well as the big figures, had to go in baggies to avoid the inevitable ravages of the Rubber Band.

Even better news: with the box top open on the thin box, it lays flat enough to act as a dice corral/drink coaster. I even gained a bit of table space, and the game moved along faster as I didn't have to spend as much time figuring out if I'd taken all of the critters out of a given baggie. This is the only way to go, I will have to do the same for Descent and perhaps even Railway Tycoon, and even Doom if I can find a Plano that will fit. That should make for an interesting trip to the local sporting goods store, me and a Doom box. Hope my health insurance covers getting pummelled by rednecks.

Clean up was just as fast as setup. I figure this saves about 30-45 minutes over the course of a game, making this something I can reasonably play within two hours from clear table to clear table. In my house, where the table is pretty small and my wife prefers not to have games set up for days on end, this is A Very Good Thing.

As for the game, not so good. After making a couple of mistakes at the start (forgetting to add the Talent when the characters advanced and losing almost every combat in the first six turns), I restarted. The Horsey-sneaky guy did great, getting up to nearly 5th level before the Wandering Dragon got to the Bulwark (this is my favorite Overlord, although I do draw them randomly), but the Androgynous Wizard had a very difficult time getting out of 2nd gear. First, I forgot to buy the Polymorph power that allowed the character to ignore any independent critters (a critical mistake), then there was only one 2nd level quest left, and the character was physically incapable of defeating it within two combat rounds because they couldn't roll enough dice to kill the higher end amphibian thingie.

Can you tell I don't play the MMORPG?

Of course, by the time I got all of this figured out (and lost again, which kills two turns for that character once they recharge and move), the Dragon Overlord reached the Bulwark, and off we went to tango. Fortunately, no extra bonus characters from using the solitaire rules from the 'Geek, so all I had to do was score 26 hits in a couple of rounds. Sadly, much of my points came from attrition with Horsey-sneaky guy, and while I did quite well in the first round, I was slammed in the second when my red dice failed miserably. Horsey-Sneaky Guy is great the first round, then everything falls apart because he isn't quite so stealthy once the opposition knows he's there. Sadly, the dynamic duo managed to score only a couple of extra damage points before turning into Horde BBQ. Which is quite yummy with a little soy sauce.

Still, it was good fun, made more fun through the streamlined setup/access/teardown process. The fun thing about this game is discovering the various classes and how they can advance in different ways, and how they can compliment each other. While I think the downtime would kill this in it's original form for almost everyone in my gaming group, the solitaire/cooperative version is quite playable and entertaining if you don't mind playing against the game instead of the other team.

One thing I do want to add is some colored cubes to help mark special spaces. There are markers included, but you have to look through the cards to see which is which, and it can take a little while. By putting a matching cube in each region, you can find the card a bit quicker. However, in all of my solo games, I have gone after perhaps two of these "side quests," as they tend to be of questionable value in the solitaire version where you are always the stronger faction. It almost always comes down to whether or not the side quest is conveniently located or not to a character who can handle it. In a competitive game, I could see this as a way to catch up, especially if there were six players spread out around the board. In a two-player cooperative game, they really don't come into play.

It's great to have found a complex, story-driven game that doesn't require me to relearn a 20 page rulebook and spend two hours setting up, as most wargames do. By the time I get the game set up, I usually don't have the time to finish before the cleaning people show up and bump all of the pieces. I sh*t you not, at one time they would pick up each individual counter of a hex-based game and dust around them. And put them back correctly. I felt guilty for weeks! Anyway, I'm really enjoying this title and am looking forward to the expansions (although no brass figures for me, my income isn't that disposable).

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