Playing with Oneself

I don’t play board games for the games themselves, I play them because they bring me together with people I want to spend time with, they facilitate friendships, catch ups and create good stories. For these reasons, I’ve never played a solo board game. It’s a whole genre of the hobby I have no knowledge about. There’s another whole area of the hobby which I know very little about: print and play games. There are games that haven’t been published in big shiny boxes, but are available online for download, that you print yourself. You can print the game on cardboard or paper, colour or black and white, and have a perfectly playable game at the end of it all.

I decided I would explore these two worlds at the same time. I’d look into some print and play, solo games, give a few a try, and report back on what happened. Just like a real journalist.

First stop…

The Crafty Players Reddit Boardgames
The Reddit Boardgame Community is great

The first thing I needed to do was decide what games I wanted to play. One thing that put this idea in my head was a post I came across on Instagram for a game called Deep Space D6, “a solitaire dice game about surviving the cruel depths of space.” A quick look on BoardGameGeek and I noticed this game was a nominee for the 2015 Golden Geek Best Print & Play Board Game award. Excellent start, straight onto my list. Then I had a look at some of the other games on the list, and another caught my eye: Austerity, “a compact solo game in which you run a nation struggling under the burden of international debt”. Being a business graduate, I have a soft spot for economic games, so onto my list it went.

From there, I headed off to the board game sub-Reddit, looking for advice and guidance. I got plenty of suggestions from fellow Redditors, and it was starting to look like a small idea for a once off article might just become a series of articles! But first, I was going to play the top two games on my list…

Deep Space D-6

Files available here.

Description: Deep Space D-6 is a sci-fi, dice rolling, worker placement game. You’re the captain of a starship in deep space and you’re trying to survive the unexpected obstacles that come your way. You roll 6 dice, and each number is a different type of crew member. Challenges in the shape of cards are drawn and must be overcome, through the best use of the crew available to you. An expanded version of this game has since been Kickstarted.

The Crafty Players Solo Games Deep Space D-6Thoughts: This game reminds me a lot of Roll for the Galaxy, a personal favourite that involves rolling dice and trying to figure out how best to use them. The dice rolling in Deep Space D-6 is similar: you’re going to be facing a number of threats, and you need to decide how best to combat them. Will I use a Commander to change this Medical office to a Tactical office to shoot down this threat? Or will I leave the Medical officer and send her to sickbay to heal the wounded? It’s full of interesting choices and confounding moments. If you find the game too easy you can reduce the number of “Nothing happens” cards in the deck. If you want a shorter game, reduce the total number of cards in the deck. There are plenty of ways to adapt this game to how you want to play it.

Components: 2 pages of rules, 1 page game board, 3 pages of cards. You’ll also need 6 D6 for your crew, an additional D6 for the “threat dice” and something to push up and down two different tracks (I used wooden cubes from other games).

Matching Beer: Space is dark, it’s a void. Balance out the darkness with a light, fruity beer. My current favourite: Bräuweisse brewed by Ayinger.

Austerity

Files available here.

Description: Austerity is a bag building, cube drawing game. Your bag consists of a number of cubes representing debt, income, national security, social welfare and civil unrest as your try to lead your country out of debt. Each turn, or year, you draw two cubes. The colour combination triggers a number of events that impact one or more of several tracks or the cubes going back into your bag.

The Crafty Players Solo Games AusterityThoughts: Considering the austerity measures levied on Ireland since the 2008 recession, this game seems appropriate. If getting a real country out of austerity is as tough as this game, I don’t envy the politicians their jobs! At the start of the game the number of “bad” cubes in your draw bag (debt and civil unrest) far outweighs the number of “good” cubes in your bag, which means things will definitely get worse before they get better. Draw two cubes, see what affect they have, try to make the best decisions possible to not lose. I made a crucial rule mistake in my early plays, which made the game more difficult but even having corrected for this mistake I still haven’t managed a victory. A head scratcher for sure, I really enjoy the puzzle of this.

Components: 6 pages of rules, 1 page game board, 1 page of tokens (I used wooden cubes instead). There is also 1 page of optional, additional cards and modules.

Matching Beer: Times are hard, there’s not much money, whatever you can afford… but that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on taste. I recently tried the Irish Pale Ale from The Crafty Beer Company, a pretty affordable, tasty beer available in Lidl. Check it out, it might surprise you.

So there you have it folks, my first two adventures in solo print and play games. Both are good puzzles, if you can allow yourself to get absorbed in them. As I said, I don’t usually play board games for the games themselves, but for the people I play them with. These games, however, are games I would play for the challenge and puzzle of trying to figure them out. If you have access to a printer, why not give them a try.

Will this be the last time I play with myself? Definitely not! I’ve got a few more games sitting here, waiting to be tried, and try them I will. Keep an eye out for a part two in the future! What about you, dear reader? Have you ever played a solo board game? Do any of the games I’ve mentioned pique your interest? Let us know in the comments below.

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