21 January 2013

Dead CCG: Quest for the Grail Solitaire Variant

Posted on my downloads page is my solitaire variant for the old CCG Quest for the Grail by Stone Ring Games.

The game came out in the glut of CCGs following the success of Magic the Gathering.  Perhaps that was why the designers felt it necessary to use a resource mechanic, very similar to Magic's mana-generating land.  In Quest for the Grail, the players pay the upkeep of their knights through the play of lands.  The lands really serve no other purpose; they do not power spells or any other cards.

Thematically this land-based resource mechanic seems inappropriate and almost tacked on.  Since the game is about questing, I feel the Domains (lands) are much more interesting as the locations of adventures, not as mere currency-generators.  Therefore the solitaire variant features a travel mechanic, inspired by Chaosium's Mythos CCG, where the player "moves" from one location to the next.  The variant would be very easy to use in a multiplayer game as well, without much modification, if your game group wants to try the travel rules.


Teaser pic; see Downloads page for file

02 January 2013

Doctor Who Solitaire Story Game

Do you like Doctor Who?  Are you a solo gamer?  If you answered yes to either question, then why are  you not downloading and playing the awesome and free Doctor Who Solitaire Story Game (DWSSG) by Simon Cogan?

I demand you go to the above BoardGameGeek page and get it right now!  When you're done report back here...

Right, that's better.  As you probably saw, there are four downloadable documents required to play the game and as I mentioned above the components are all free.  I think that's the first thing that sets this game apart:  it costs nothing to play, yet the production value exceeds 90% of any commercial product I have seen, regardless of game subject or genre.  Truly a labor of love.

The other thing that sets this game apart is the actual gameplay.  When I first stumbled across DWSSG I was dubious.  Since it was described as a paragraph-based solitaire game, I suspected it would be like any of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" type books I grew up playing in elementary school.  Wrong.  The Doctor Who Solitaire Story Game indeed uses paragraphs which are reached through choices, but also utilizes character actions resolved with dice rolls to influence the flow of the game.  Exactly which action you, the solo player, chooses matters greatly.  Solo miniature gamers and solo wargamers, and especially solo role-playing gamers should appreciate this, as characters possess familiar numerical game statistics, which can be improved through long-term play.

The game engine uses a random encounter table and the mechanic cleverly replicates a television script-writing formula: introduce characters, settings, motivations, conflicts; progress through plot to conflict resolution; resolve conflict after cliffhanger.  And it works.  I finished my first adventure last night and had a hoot.  I really felt like I was immersed in a Doctor Who episode.

If you're thinking this is a game that only appeals to the hard-core fan, I have a different perspective.  I'm sure people who grew up with the BBC will love this game as it allows them to create stories in a beloved universe.  For some Americans like myself, Doctor Who never had the same exposure.  My introduction to the Doctor came through the flashy cover art on the Terrance Dicks novelizations.  I devoured these books in middle school, but sadly had never seen an actual TV episode until I caught a 2005 show featuring Christopher Eccleston on PBS.  With the miracle of Netflix I'm slowly working my way through that 2005 season, as well as watching a few older serials ("The Three Doctors").   As a viewer with only a few episodes under his belt, I still love this game.  In fact, I think my lack of intimate knowledge of the Doctor Who universe makes it even more fun because so many of the villains, companions, settings, and other aspects are all so new and fresh.

I keep posting about my upcoming hiatus from gaming and from this blog.  I hope however, to post a play report from my first complete adventure.  Until then, go download the game and try it.  Oh, and in addition to all the hard work the author did on the base components, he's also created a myriad of expansion materials.  Truly impressive stuff.