Confession: Technically speaking, I attempted my first solo session last night. However, due to "technical difficulties" (i.e. two brain-farts), I didn't complete the session. Today's playthrough went much smoother (aside from the end score) 😂
Let's get right to the brain-farts that were corrected today shall we???
Brain-Fart #1: I didn't realize last night until a bit into my game, that each A.I. player board has a different "personality"or focus. Without realizing it, I chose the Cleric board. This means, although the A.I. will still do other actions, they will favour writing manuscripts as their target throughout the game. 😏 Not a major brain-fart, but it was definitely an ah-ha moment. For the record, today's game was also the Cleric board, but this time I chose it on purpose.
Brain-Fart #2: Shem Phillips uses iconography in all of his games for sure, but I think Viscounts is definitely the heaviest in this regard. I truly don't mind this at all. In fact, I really enjoy it. I love the feeling of looking at a game and it initially looks like gibberish. As you learn, suddenly things become clearer and make perfect sense. Like learning a language. It's basically like reading hieroglyphics for gamers right?? 😉 All this means is, you should probably pay closer attention and not rush things as I did last night. Here's the culprits...
The top symbol I've circled means the solo AI dismisses a townsfolk card that is adjacent to their viscount on the main board. This costs no silver, and they received the benefit on the right side of that card.
The bottom symbol with the '+' sign, means the AI adds a 'future scheme card' to their discard pile.
Last night, anytime I saw a green and white card-type icon, I added a future scheme card. Guess what? That's not helpful - especially during your first solo play. 🙄 I noticed it after the future scheme card draw deck was empty early on in the game. I thought "oops... oh well, I'll just play this one out". It's the thought that counts. The AI was piling in the VPs and I had even less hope than I did today. I decided to stop the game, go to bed and reset today... properly. 🤣
Today was much more enjoyable and smooth.
Here's a somewhat early in the game shot of the table. The AI board on the left, and mine on the right. For whatever reason the abundance of "stuff" you end up piling in front of you throughout the game is very satisfying I have to say. 🤗
As I said, this game is heavier on the iconography, but it works! The solo mode is really enjoyable (when you do it right) 🤣. Let me give you an idea of how the AI works...
Here is a shot of the Cleric AI player board. I've already discarded a card (slide right-most card off the player board to the discard pile, and shift the other two cards down). After the discard, you draw the top card from the scheme deck and place it in the left-most space on the AI player board (the 'two skull card'... in othr words, two criminals).
To run the AI you simply run down the cards.
-The top section are rescources the AI has available to them for actions during their turn. In this case, they've added two criminals which are used as any resource (wild).
-Anytime a criminal comes up on your mat you need to move your poverty token on space to the right (which is what the second section on the card reminds you to do).
-Next the AI flips a deed card (if they have one). Moving them from 1VP for the deed to 3VP for that card.
-Followed by moving their viscount 3 spaces on the main board. The AI viscount only moves on the outside path of the gameboard, but can perform even the inside actions if told to (sending workers to the castle and writing manuscripts). This definitely makes running the AI simple and quick.
-The bottom section tells you to perform the AI's preferred action (not seen in top left of player board in this pic). Since this is the Cleric board, the Cleric AI wants to write a manuscript. If they don't have the resources to do so, this card shows you to then add a deed card to the AI's supply and pay off a debt (providing them with a resource of their choice).
It seems like alot, but it's very quick and very simple once you have a handle on the icons. This was only my (we'll call it) "two and a half plays" and it made perfect sense. 😎
Here's a look at my player board at one point later in the game. I had a decent amount of buildings constructed, yet my townsfolk I hired were either looking unimpressed or completely shocked like a deer in the headlights... I'm not sure how to take this fellas!?!? 🤔
Different townsfolk have different actions (some have no specific action and only offer resources;
-My priest here for example has an 'on-going' effect while he's in play in my town which is that I can pay 1-ink well to equal two! Yay! That helps write more manuscripts while he's wandering through town.
-Merovech was my 'hero' I chose to start with (from two available). He also has an 'on-going' effect while he's in play which is every time I construct a building while he's around, I can then choose to either re-arrange my townsfolk on my player mat OR discard a card from my hand or draw pile.
-The Journeyman (part of my original crew - see the blue banner? 🙂) has a 'discard effect'. On the next discard, he'll be sliding out of town and into the discard pile. At that time I can take his action which is the ability to hire any townsfolk card from the main board (top of the decks) for free AND I can move my virtue token one to the left.
I love how in Viscounts, cards have multiple uses depending on the time you choose to use them and how you choose to use them.
Here's the Viscounts wandering around the main board. Notice how empty the castle was today, yet so many buildings were being constructed?? The castle ended up much more crowded by the end. 😁
Here's a shot later in the game. Probably 80-85% of the way through maybe? So much fun! The AI wrote so many manuscripts, I think the townsfolk were wondering if we'd have any trees left in the forest!!? 🤣
Overall it was a really enjoyable playthrough today for my first (full) solo play. I can't wait to try the other AI boards. One thing I will say, this game can be long. Today's play was quite a while at the table. Paladins of the West Kingdom has 7-rounds, so you can easily track where the game is and when it's going to end. In Viscounts, the end game is only triggered when the top debt or deed cards (or both) are emptied. Technically, that 'can' be quick... But so far, it was a longer game.
A very nice experience though and another excellent solo mode by Shem Phillips.