Thursday, November 23, 2006

World of Warcraft Solitaire (w/ Expansion)

I'm a big fan of WoWtB, although only (so far) using the solitaire rules on the 'Geek. I picked up the new expansion last week and was looking forward to trying it out, so I set up a "two-player" solitaire game and gave it a shot.

The expansion adds a few cards to pretty much every deck in the game, as well as a new "blue" quest deck (with rewards for killing independent monsters, mostly just an annoyance in the original game) and a "Destiny" deck that's more or less another event deck (but one you can tailor based on which overlord is in the game). The biggest change, however, has to be the additions to the character decks, both the powers and abilities - each character now has almost twice as many cards to give a lot of choices for tailoring development. Some classes are much more powerful now, perhaps too much so, but as I only played the base game five or six times, I didn't really get a good grip on what the changes were.

For my game, I played two Horde characters, the bull with a gun and the cow that's essentially a druid. I know that in the computer game all of these classes have specific names, but in the boardgame they don't come up much, and in fact are only mentioned in passing in the rules - even the player mats have names and icons but no class titles. This was an interesting choice, as these are the two "nature" characters, with one able to morph into critters and the other having pets. I also chose the Overlord that you have to find on the board (he has five dummy tokens and one real one), which I think makes for a more interesting game because you have a pretty tight time limit.

Sadly, my first game went wrong when I got about an hour in and realized that I had the wrong decks with the wrong characters! Since there's no reason to look at the card backs once you get going, it's not too hard to do if you don't know the classes well. As such, I decided to start over, which was OK with me as the Druid character had a rough first battle. If I have a complaint with the game, it's that a bad first battle basically kills two turns out of fifteen, which in a time-limit game like the solo game is can make the difference between winning and losing. If it happens twice, you might as well start over. On the restart, the Druid wiped out her first opponent in one roll. I'm not sure how to fix this, other than to give a "mulligan" roll at game start that can only be used in the first roll of the first battle for each character.

One thing that I found myself doing more of in this game was using the two characters in tandem in the mid to late game. Normally, with all of these tokens to discover around the board, it's smart to send the characters to the various areas to find out where the Overlord is hiding, but in this case there were two good reasons to do so. First was a group of three Scarlet Crusaders in the NE corner of the board next to an Overlord token, which made good sense to go after together as multiple critters are almost always hard to beat with a single character, and three is very difficult because they rack up such a high attack value. Of course, the second my characters beat them, the replacement quest put an independent ogre on the air lane space, although fortunately there was an event giving XP for killing it.

From there, they went to the SE corner of the board, partly for the decoy marker, partly to kill a boss generated by a destiny card (these cards only last for a certain amount of time, so you need to get to them quickly if you want the benefit) that dropped the overlord's threat value (the number you need to roll on a d8 to hit) by one for each character that helped kill it. As such, that lowered the threat value to 5 from 7, which doubles your chance to succeed. Overlords are very hard to get hits on, so this was a no brainer, plus there was another quest in that space. From there, the Druid went to the central area of the board while the gunner continued south to finally locate the overlord in the SW quadrant.

With only a few turns left, I got both characters up to 4th level, did enough training to get the best powers I could, loaded them up and refreshed their energy and health, and off they went to kill the overlord on the final turn of the game. It took two rounds, and in the process I lost one character and the gunner's pet tiger, and left a single health on the gunner with just enough damage to kill off the overlord. To my mind, that's exactly the result I want - a close game where I'm not sure I'll win or lose, but I just make it.

As for the expansion, I like the destiny deck, especially if it improves my chances to kill the overlord. The fact they only last for a period of time is a good idea, although in some cases I'm not sure if the critters generated by a specific card are supposed to stay on the board once the card expires. The blue quest deck, which gives you "bonus" cards (mostly items, sometimes XP) for killing independent creatures, even if you lose the battle (if there's more than one, for instance) is better than nothing, although I think that the optional rule where you don't take the card if there are no independents of that type should also include the card being removed if there aren't any of that type in play at any time - I ended up with cards that were useless for most of the game.

I can't really speak to the new additions to the items, event deck, and quests, although it seemed there were more chances to get items from the goblet deck, usually if I see more than one or two things that involve these in a game it's unusual. I do like the increased options for the various characters, which to me is the meaty part of the game. Being able to choose a path for your character's development is the fun part, and what gives the game so much replayability.

There were rumors of another expansion in the works, but there is nothing on the FFG website anymore, and it's running into 2007 now. My guess is that this game is nowhere near the success that Descent or Runebound is, so they want to sink their money into those areas. I think that's probably OK, as the other options are different critters (there are already 15 or so in the base game) or character classes, and there are enough of those as well. I could accomodate a few more critters, but the two Plano boxes with bits are pretty full, and more cards would create a problem with storage to fit everything into one box.

As a whole, I'm happy with the expansion, especially for the price, and it will keep this game fresh for me for quite a while to come. Sometime I'll have to try this out as a four-player game (or two playing four characters), it really is a blast.