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  • Writer's pictureJW

A B C, it's easy as 1 2 3

This summer I’m hosting an alphabet challenge in the Dutch and Belgian solo board gamers Facebook group. Good fun. Though I’m not competing (I’m the jury), I’ve played some games starting with A, B, C as well this month. It’s a great opportunity to get some games off my Shelf of Shame and some other favourites on the table as well.

Parachuting into the challenge

Airborne Commander is a fast-playing solitaire deck building game that simulates the actions of the 101st Airborne Division on D-Day and shortly afterwards. The rules aren't hard, but tersely written, I needed the revised rules from BGG to get it right. I enjoyed my plays and am glad I finally got it to the table. It's mainly a survival game, you're trying to stay alive to fulfill your missions. Surviving and suppressing enemy fire is more important than killing enemy soldiers. You can use your men for combat, support actions or keep them in reserve to recruit better-equipped troops. Decisions, decisions. If you take too many hits, you get disorganized (cards blocking your hand) and eventually lose the game.

It used to be hard to find, but is nowadays available on The Game Crafter. I wouldn't recommend anyone to pay an awful lot of money to get this, though. I mean it's a small box where the replay value comes mainly from it being hard to beat.

Surviving cowardly

After playing and losing a multiplayer game of Aeon's End, I decided to repeat it solo. Most of the time after your first loss, you realize what you could have done better. So, a second chance for Phaedraxa and Mist vs Blight Lord.

For my first try I cowardly changed a card on the market. We had died way too fast, so I added the healing spell "Essence Theft". Surprisingly, it was still a close call. I did win this session though, and now had fully figured out my strategy. So I changed the market back to its old state and played "for real" without any healing. And yes! I won! So good.

Blight Loser! 😈

How to Lose

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is a great comic book. It's been almost 36 years now since I read it, but it left a lasting impression. And now it has been made into a game. All illustrations have been taken from the books, so it provides a joyful trip down memory lane.

This is a solitaire game first and foremost, because "everybody wants to play Batman anyway". The rulebook starts with a paragraph on "How to Lose". As there's no real way of winning this game. Staying alive is the best you can aim for. Even then, you'll pay a price.

At the start of each round you draw some multi-purpose cards and then choose which ones you want to use yourself, and which ones are going to trigger nasty effects. You also decide in which ratio the enemies (criminals, cops and press) will appear on the map each round. This freedom is brilliant. Not only does it make for a good puzzle, you will also only have yourself to blame for everything bad that's going to happen to you. 😁

There are four scenarios in the game (one for each comic book from the series) and you will play them as a campaign. Choices you make and rewards you pick, like extra roads to use, are written with an erasable marker on the board.

I loved my play. It's hard and fun. But I have no idea how it would be for someone who hasn't read the books. So, mainly for the fans I guess. But then, very much recommended. 👍

Sucking bullets

I suck at Bullet❤️. I enjoy the puzzle, trying to make patterns to prevent wounds, but I wouldn't mind a win now and then. And I was playing against a disabled ghost! Lost all my sessions...

I also suck at Bullet⭐. Overachieving "Deertective" Jane Doe tried to take on the Collective Consciousness. She got distracted - well, let's be frank here, brainwashed - by television. There is no boss here, you can just go to sleep and pow, shot herself in the foot again. Hoof?

After three tries I managed to win this combination. 🥳 I love how every character and every boss plays differently. Well, 372 combinations to go. With my current 25% win percentage this means 1488 games. And I did the easy battles first, so probably more. I've got a life's work ahead of me.

Exclamation marks!!!

Caesar!: Seize Rome in 20 Minutes! is an area control game with an AI that plays way simpler than the super complicated explanation of the placement rules suggests. The solo variant is designed by Dávid Turczi, whose motto is "why simplify matters when you can complicate them". So there are pages of text, basically telling you to play left hand versus right hand 😜

Caesar! is another fast playing game that's hard and will take practice for me to win regularly. At no time at all does anything thematic seep through, which is a pity because I like the setting of Ancient Rome. But I needed to have it in my collection anyway because of the exclamation marks. I love them!

Five years love affair

I also played one of my favourite games this month, Astroforce (the retail version of Print and Play-hit Star Trek: The Dice Game). Using the dice placement mechanism of Deep Space D-6 you'll go on five-year missions with your spaceship. Surviving calamities, defending against enemy ships - but hopefully getting some ship upgrades and specialized personnel as well.

I played twice. The first time I failed during the second year. I had to escort a colonist vessel to their new home planet, but I got noticed by way too strong enemy ships in no time. I couldn't repair the damage inflicted fast enough.

The second play was very exciting. It all started uneventful, we went on a trade mission to obtain mining rights. Talks went well. No problem. Then a routine cargo drop. Still everything hunky-dory. Then we were sent to assist a mining vessel in trouble. We had to make repairs under tough conditions and somehow I was facing staff shortage. Until I found out some were hiding in sick bay! Doing... ehm... let's say they were very embarrassed when I caught them.

In the final years we investigated a starship wreckage and a distress beacon. Yup, no shortage of clichés in this game. 😁 I reached the finish line rather miraculously, with just 1 hull strength left, and 1 unit of fuel. Which means I managed my second win in 28 sessions! (Or 38 when counting Star Trek: The Dice Game as well.) 🚀

A B C it's easy, it's like counting up to 3

Singing simple melodies

That's how easy love can be

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