I’m sure many people despise the word, variant. It seeps through their pores and floats into their mouths where it ends up causing a great deal of stomach discomfort. I am not one of those people. If you are, this post probably isn’t for you. Unless… you like solo gaming.
See, a solo gamer might hate the concept of a variant, but slobber all over the newest solo variant posted for a game. Solo variants are different. There sole purpose is to make the game playable by yourself. As a designer, you want to try to maintain the experience of the original design while still creating something that is fun and/or challenging to play.
I err on the side of challenge when it comes to solo play. Solo gamers want to have fun, but part of that fun is solving a difficult puzzle or in some way beating something that seemed insurmountable when you first started playing. If a solo variant doesn’t offer enough challenge to players, they will simply go back to playing Onirim or Mage Knight (depending on the day).
I’ve created 3 solo variants in my life. The first was when I was 12 and it was just so I could play Space Hulk by myself. That was before I got the Deathwing expansion. The second two are much more recent.
I first created the Lanterns solo variant in May of 2015 when my family stopped playing the game with me. I always won, and it’s no fun playing a game against someone who always wins… and gloats.
I loved this game and I couldn’t imagine not being able to play it during the week, so I started work on a solo variant for it. This solo variant has multiple levels of difficulty and a very simple AI that is really tough to beat, especially at higher levels of play. I received a lot of feedback about this one, garnered statistics on the playtest data I received from others along with my own playtests. Even the owner of Foxtrot Games, Randy Hoyt took an interest in the project, for which I was honored.
My family had met Randy at Gencon in 2014. My partner actually has a credit for thematic consultant in the rulebook. She worked with Randy to ensure that Lanterns: The Harvest Festival was as authentic and respectful to Chinese culture as possible. Since then, we’ve stayed in contact and become friends. Friends who only meet at GenCon every year, but friends nonetheless.
My third solo variant was posted today. It’s for The Grizzled or Les Poulis in French as it’s known by many. The English version is published by Cool Mini or Not. I’ve had it sitting for awhile, but life’s been a madhouse and something else always seemed to get in the way.
This one I tackled because it’s one of my favorite card games, but also because I wasn’t sure it would be possible. I thought you would lose the entire experience in translation and worse that it couldn’t be fun.
Hopefully, I’ve proved myself wrong. I have changed the experience; it couldn’t be helped. Before it was about a a team trying to survive the Great War. Now, it’s just you. You’re the hero of the story, and you need to help your brother’s in arms make it through. I think the foundation is strong, but it’s going to need playtesting and feedback before I know if it’s just good or if it’s great.
So if you have the inkling to try either of these variants, just follow the links posted above. I’ll be happy to hear from you. You can email me anytime through the contact page as well. Thanks for sticking with me. I’ll have more to come soon.