Review: Viticulture Essential Edition


Designer:  Jamey Stegmaier, Alan Stone
Year: 2015
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Players: 1-6
Game Type: Worker Placement

In Viticulture, the players find themselves in the roles of people in rustic, pre-modern Tuscany who have inherited meager vineyards. They have a few plots of land, an old crushpad, a tiny cellar, and three workers. They each have a dream of being the first to call their winery a true success. The players are in the position of determining how they want to allocate their workers throughout the year. Every season is different on a vineyard, so the workers have different tasks they can take care of in the summer and winter. There's competition over those tasks, and often the first worker to get to the job has an advantage over subsequent workers. Fortunately for the players, people love to visit wineries, and it just so happens that many of those visitors are willing to help out around the vineyard when they visit as long as you assign a worker to take care of them. Their visits (in the form of cards) are brief but can be very helpful. Using those workers and visitors, players can expand their vineyards by building structures, planting vines (vine cards), and filling wine orders (wine order cards). Players work towards the goal of running the most successful winery in Tuscany.

Solo Setup

SOLO SETUP
For solo setup, choose your color pieces and matching vineyard. Then choose the color you want for the Automa to have. You will only need to grab the workers, grande worker and victory point tracker marker for the Automa. Place the Automa victory point tracker on the End space of the victory point track. Now place 1 glass token on the 7 rows of the Wake Up chart, these will act as your round counters. Shuffle the Automa deck and set it to the side of the Wake Up chart. Last you will need to remove, or remember to not play any visitor cards that give you a benefit on another players turn, as you are the only player. For the Essential Edition, like I have, you will now take one random Mama and Papa card, and get your starting resources. Now it's time to play.


SOLO GAMEPLAY
NOTE: I am covering this as if you know how to play Viticulture with others already, if not I highly suggest watching Watch it Played's video of how to play. Viticulture solo takes place over 7 years, 4 Seasons per year, which you track with the Wake Up chart. You have 7 turns to try and get more than 20 victory points. So at the start of your turn for Spring, you choose which of the 7 Wake Up actions you want to use. All but one allow for a bonus for that round. Remove the glass token once you choose, and hold onto it for a bonus action during the game. Once you choose, it's time to move onto Summer. Before you do anything in Summer and Winter you turn over the top Automa card. For summer you do what the Green and Yellow sections say, for Winter you use Red and Blue. NOTE: You will only use the ones with a T on them if you are using the Tuscany expansion, otherwise you can disregard them. The Automa will block spaces from you, just like other players would. So you will not be able to take actions you would have wanted to, unless you have a bonus token (glass token taken during Spring), which can only be used once, then place it back into the box, or if you choose to use your Grande worker. So say it's Summer and you are all set to plant that field, well too bad because you just got crop blocked by the Automa. Once you decide to stop taking your worker actions you move into Autumn, and choose a visitor card. Then it's straight into Winter. Take the next Automa card, place workers where the Red and Blue sections tell you, and then it's your turn. When done, it's year end, age your grapes and wines, collect your workers and that is all there is to it.

This deck is evil! 
FINAL THOUGHTS
If you want to talk strategy, and a little bit of luck, than this is the game for you. I've played 5 times, and gotten 15 points once. I need 20 to tie. It's hard damn it! Every time I want to do this, I can't because it's blocked. Or now I want to do that, and the game looks at me and says, "Oh, I'm sorry did you want to come over here? Well too bad cause I wanted to harvest this round!" It takes a good deal of planning in this game to get where you want to be with other players, but playing solo you just have no advantage if the wrong cards come out. And that is what makes it so much fun. It's all the thinking and planning that go into each move. You come to the start of round 5 and you grab a mirror to just yell at yourself, "WHY DID YOU ALREADY WASTE A ROUND TAKING THE EXTRA WORKER!" I'll table flip that Automa deck I swear! Overall, this game is good, really good, and having to play it alone, with such a solid solo experience makes it that much better. Just in terms of appeal for a solo player, this is a must. I haven't been this mad at a game in so long, and all I want to do is get it back out and grow more grapes. Even though I will probably lose again. It's pure fun in losing, but when I get that victory, I'm gonna Lucille Ball the crap out of it.

Oh look, I lost again.
SCORE
4.75 out of 5 Solo's

PROS
• The Automa is so solid, it's near perfect... but I hate its crop blocking ways!
• A serious strategy game, that makes my brain hurt.

CONS
• I'm not into wine, can we make it about cheese?

RECOMMENDED VIDEOS
Solomode Games Solo Playthrough
Watch it Played How To Play Multiplayer Version
DecapDan Royer DecapDan Royer Author

Review: The Lost Expedition


Designer: Peer Sylvester
Year: 2017
Artist: Garen Ewing
Publisher: Osprey Games
Players: 1-5
Game Type: (Solo, Cooperative, Head-to-Head)

Legendary explorer Percy Fawcett marched deep into the Amazon in search of El Dorado. He was never seen again. Your team has gone in search of him, but now you hope to escape the jungle with the greatest treasure of all: your life.

Make the best of your food, your ammunition, and your health in The Lost Expedition as you plunge deep into the jungle. Choose your path carefully to ensure you’re ready for the pitfalls that may occur.

The Lost Expedition can be played solo, cooperatively, and head-to-head, all providing varying degrees of challenges.


SETUP
Setup is really two-fold in The Lost Expedition. Most of the game will remain stationary. However, since there are morning and evening phases, you will “setup” the adventure cards for each phase.

The game takes minutes to prepare. Lay out the 9 Expedition cards, select your three explorers, and divvy out the health, ammunition, and food tokens. Shuffle the adventure cards and deal them out as instructed. (Solo games will deal differently for the morning and evening.)

GAMEPLAY
Once the Adventure cards are down, you resolve them from left to right. Each card shows you various actions on 3 different colored caption boxes. These are how you figure out strategy to reach the Lost City of Z.

Yellow boxes must be resolved. You complete the action, no matter if it’s good or bad. If there’s more than one action to take, you perform them left to right. Red boxes - of which there is usually more than one - also must be completed, but you are allowed to choose which one. Finally, blue boxes are completely optional: you can ignore the box(es) or resolve one or more of them.


As you play, you’ll notice there seems to be an inordinate amount of negative effects that take away your health, food, and ammo. But that’s what makes The Lost Expedition fun. You play the cards you’re dealt, and those you draw, in the best way you feel will keep your explorers alive long enough to reach your goal. Or you can play a totally different way. Like playing cards that move you along the path the quickest. You’ll have opportunities to obtain loot, which can sometimes stand between success and failure.

You play until all of your explorers die. Which sometimes is faster then you had hoped.

There is no right or wrong way to play. It’s mostly up to your style, the cards you’re given, and if you need to focus on food or ammunition for a bit before continuing the journey on the Expedition cards.

SOLO PLAY
First and foremost, solo play is challenging. Frustratingly challenging. But if Osprey Games made an easy game, then you might one-and-done The Lost Expedition. (Tip: on your first few play-throughs, shorten the journey by removing Expedition cards 7 and 8.)


The main difference between solo and the other modes is how the morning and evening phases are handled. For the morning, the 6 Adventure cards are laid out in numerical order. For the evening, you start with one from your hand, but you can place the next 5 at the beginning or end of the Adventure card row. In either case, you have some control in what card you play from your hand.

The random portion of the game exists in the cards you draw for your hand. This requires you to look ahead to formulate a strategy in obtaining loot, staying a alive, or moving along the path. While that randomness is small compared to the strategy involved in everything else, it is possible to get a bad run of cards where you’re giving up food or ammo, or needing to remove health from your Explorers to resolve cards.

Even though the game was mentioned earlier as frustratingly challenging, The Lost Expedition will probably keep you playing until you win one. And then, you say to yourself, “If I won once, I can win again.” But when you don’t, and don’t again, and well, don’t yet again, you’ll play until you do. The cycle repeats.


FINAL THOUGHTS
The Lost Expedition hits all the right notes in terms of fun, strategy, and replayability. One strategy may not work the next time; or the cards you get won’t help you at all. Each game will be different, which makes The Lost Expedition a game to have in your collection.

The art is campy, but it’s the heart. It will remind you of the Tin Tin cartoons, and the story of The Lost Expedition will conjure of images of those British expeditions movies taking place in the 20s and 30s.

Solo play is difficult, but the same theory applies here as it does with the rest of the modes: you’ll keep coming back for more.

So get The Lost Expedition if you can. It’s inexpensive, and games take less than 20 minutes (on the long end). The only major negative is that some people may find the difficulty so overwhelming, they’ll only play it a few times before shelving it.


SCORE
4 out of 5 Solos

PROS

  • Quick games
  • Fun and campy art
  • Easy setup
  • Mid-size footprint
  • Variety of modes to play

CONS

  • Some gamers may give up due to difficulty
  • You will lose a lot. A LOT.

LINKS:
Osprey Publishing (Osprey Games) Website

The Lost Expedition at BoardGameGeek
Gregory Gregory Author

Should You Back It?: Noises at Night from BnB Games Studio



There are noises in the house, and it’s up to you to figure out who’s causing them. Clues litter the house for you and up to 3 players to figure out the people causing those unbearable noises. But it’s possible you’ll encounter ghosts or monsters as you go from location to location collecting guessing and victory points.


Each player will get an identity. As clues are laid down on locations, it’s up to you to play the good detective to figure out who placed what. Guess bad and no points for you. Guess right, and you’re well on your way to being a fancy detective. The timer tracks the rounds, and after each round, a new event card is revealed. At the end of the game, points are counted and the player with the most victory points is the best detective!


Noises at Night has cute art and easy-to-understand instructions, which makes this game appealing to gamers who like light horror and deduction games. You’ll get plenty of content in the box – 55 clue cards, 5 event cards, 8 character tokens, timer card and handle, 1st player token, 30 score tokens, 8 player cards, and 4 reference cards. And since the Kickstarter is already funded and well above it’s goal, you receive the 10 stretch goals as well. As of this writing, there are 10 days left.


Should You Back It?


Maybe. The game caters to those who enjoy secret identity and deduction games. The cute art may not be enough for you, but with B&B Games Studio’s other releases, you’re sure to get a fun game with Noises at Night. We Roll Solo recommends backing this game!


Gregory Gregory Author

Review: Terraforming Mars



In the 2400s, mankind begins to terraform the planet Mars. Giant corporations, sponsored by the World Government on Earth, initiate huge projects to raise the temperature, the oxygen level, and the ocean coverage until the environment is habitable. In Terraforming Mars, you play one of those corporations and work together in the terraforming process, but compete for getting victory points that are awarded not only for your contribution to the terraforming, but also for advancing human infrastructure throughout the solar system, and doing other commendable things.

Setting up Terraforming Mars appears daunting at first, but when you do it a few times, you’ll realize that it’s basically handing out resources and putting a few cubes on the board.

Game and corporation cards

Everyone will start with some cards to choose from, and everyone will receive a corporation. Resources are handed out, which are determined by what is stated on the corporation card. Some will receive more MegaCredits, or some will start with more production of a resource, while others will have better economy options for certain cards.

And after the appropriate cubes are placed on the board, the game is ready to go!


GAMEPLAY
Terraforming Mars is played in rounds, or generations, which is kept track of with the numbers on the edges of the board. These numbers also represent your Terraform Rating, which is the amount of base MegaCredits (MC) you receive at the beginning of a generation (and part of your ending Victory Points if you’re keeping score.)

When a new generation begins, players draw 4 cards and purchase whichever ones they want (at a cost of 3 MCs each). MegaCredits and resources are handed out. Then that player makes one or two actions. No one has to make 2 actions, but a player must make one action if they want to continue playing in that round. If someone doesn’t want to do anything, or can’t do anything, then it’s a Pass. They are out that round. Why would someone make only 1 action? Well, it could be to see what another player will do. Or it could be that that’s the only action they can take.


Game in progress
To terraform Mars, you pay heat to raise the temperature; place greeneries to increase the oxygen; and buy opportunities to place water. Anyone one of those could be the result of a card’s action, or from buying the improvement outright as a Standard Plan as well. The cards also provide you with ways to increase resource production amounts, ongoing actions that take affect when a catalyst activates it, and chances to use one-off action per round.

Once everyone has passed, that generation ends, and a new one begins.

Solo play isn’t that different from the main game. You don’t use milestones and awards - since you’re not competing with anyone - and the board starts out with 2 cities and 2 greeneries. The main goal is the same, however: terraform Mars by raising the oxygen and temperature and place all 9 water tiles.

Solo game setup
Easy enough, right? But you’re on a time crunch. You have 14 generations to complete all 3 objectives. You draw and use cards and spend resources the same as a multiplayer game. If by the end of generation 14 you haven’t terraformed the planet, you lose. And let me provide a warning now: We Roll Solo nearly guarantees that most game sessions - if you win - are won in the last few of generations. It may take you a while to produce enough resources to make a difference, but when you do, you’ll see the goals within site. If there’s one piece of advice to take, it’s be patient. Don’t panic the closer you get to generation 14 and you have no idea how you’re going to get 10 things accomplished in 4 generations.

If you can’t get together with others to play Terraforming Mars, the solo variant is well worth playing. You might even prefer it over multiplayer!

There is a lot of complex goodness in Terraforming Mars. The rules aren’t hard to understand after a few rounds of play, but on first glance, may seem daunting. Boiled down, the game is all about resource management and tile placement. With multiplayer, you want to earn Victory Points the best and most efficient way possible. For solo, you simply want to terraform Mars to win, but you can keep score if you wish. The game definitely has strategy and tough decision-making circumstances to keep you coming back for more.

Because each game won’t play the same due to the randomness of the cards and corporation draws, Terraforming Mars has good replayability. And with the two expansion available now - Hellas & Elysium and Venus Next - you’ll have plenty of things to do in space as you transform nearby planets for human colonization. (NOTE: Reviews for both expansion are forthcoming.)

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to make yourself at home on Mars!




4.5 out of 5 Solos

PROS
  Spaced themed!
  Great replay value (especially with the expansions)
  Intelligent mechanics based on real science
  Challenging solo play
  Deep gameplay with simple round progression

CONS
  Mechanics and theme not for everyone
  The more people that play, the longer the game sessions (might turn some off)

EXTRA
After playing the main game or running through a number of solo games from the base rules, why not try a solo scenario created by We Roll Solo's Gregory Thompson? There are 2 scenarios, one that lasts about 30 minutes, and a more involved one that averages around 60-75 minutes of playing time. Both are available on Board Game Geek at the following links:



LINKS

Gregory Gregory Author

Should You Back It: Tiny Epic Zombies


If the zombie genre in any capacity – movies, TV, books, comics, board games – has made you feel like the market is saturated, then consider retracting that judgement for this Kickstarter. Gamelyn Games currently has a Kickstarter running for Tiny Epic Zombies. You should be somewhat familiar with their games, especially if you’re a solo player. The company has produced several games in the Tiny Epic series like Galaxies, Western, Quest, and more.


Now we’re tasked with surviving a zombie outbreak…in a mall! Basically, survive the flesh-hungry undead as you run from store to store gathering supplies and weapons (tokens designed as their ITEMeeples collection.) Besides surviving, you’ll need to complete different objectives to win a game session. If the zombies overrun the shopping center, guess what: You. Die.


Character Card
According to the Kickstarter, the game takes about 30 minutes to play. One to five players can partake in five game modes: Cooperative; Cooperative versus Zombie player; Competitive; Competitive versus Zombie player; and Solo.

The lowest pledge, $8, gets you the print and play files to DIY. After that, the $20 and $25 (Deluxe) pledges get you the core game in some fashion. And if you need more than one game? You certainly have that option.


Location Card
Should You Back It?

Y. E. S. Definitely. Why isn’t your wallet out right now? The game looks extremely entertaining and enjoyable, particularly for the solo player. And even though it could be considered just another zombie thing, Gamelyn Games has proven hits with their previous Tiny Epic games. We Roll Solo is confident TEZ will be a hit the first time you get your hands on it. As of right now (with 14 days to go), backers have unlocked over 21 stretch goals, with more being unlocked every day.

Tiny Epic Zombies Kickstarter


Gamelyn Games website
Gregory Gregory Author

Review: Space Invaders Dice!


In 1978, a simplistic and addictive video game would take the arcade world by storm. Space Invaders had you shooting waves of aliens in order to aim for the most points possible. Now, Turn One Gaming Supplies lets you experience a similar mechanic in dice form with Space Invaders Dice! You have the option to play one of two solo modes or go head to head against up to three opponents. With 8 attack dice, can you save the planet and amass an impressive amount of points?

Original poster for Space Invaders arcade game
SETUP
The setup to Space Invaders Dice! is quick. In less than a minute, you’re ready to go. So what’s involved? Opening the box, removing the contents, finding a pencil, and that is it. That’s simple
enough, right?

Attack and laser dice

GAMEPLAY
One of the surprising aspects of the game is how closely it resembles the arcade version. Your goal is to clear lower enemies to reach the upper-level enemies. And in doing that, you have the opportunity to shoot down a UFO. At the beginning of each round, you’ll roll 3 laser dice to place on the scorecard. These laser dice represent the blockades you can’t shoot through, which means you can’t shoot in that column until the next round or you roll an icon to remove it.

You start with 8 attack dice with various color ships, a blockade icon, and an ‘X’. You use the colored ships on the dice to cross out the corresponding aliens on the score card. However, you can only shoot in a column not blocked and only at aliens above those crossed out (or the first row). To shoot a UFO, you must clear out all the aliens under it; you then use the UFO dice to give it a point value if you can shoot at it. If you’re unable to use a dice, then you can re-reroll and press your luck, but penalties are doubled. If you choose not to re-reroll, then each dice you don’t use and any “X”’s cost you a life. If you re-reroll, any dice you can’t use or any “X”’s are worth 2 lives. You have a total of 18 lives. But one word of note: losing your lives can go fast!

After you go through the attack dice, you’ll cross out a UFO, making it unavailable to shoot in subsequent rounds. Next, you’ll remove an attack dice for every 2 columns you clear. Re-roll the laser dice for new blocked columns, and repeat the process again. It’s a fun way to progress through the rounds, with enough strategy in your dice rolls to figure out how to knock out aliens in the best way each round.

SOLO PLAY
There are two modes of solo play. The first is Standard, which is no different than playing the game with opponents. Shoot as many aliens to clear the scorepad or before you lose all your lives. The other solo mode is Marathon, where after the first game, you’ll always start with 2 penalties on the dice. Your goal is to beat 15 levels (games) before all your lives are lost. Hopefully, the re-rolls won’t mess you up!

Scorepad full of aliens!
FINAL THOUGHTS
Space Invaders Dice! is an easy game to learn and excellent game to play in less than 10 minutes. The footprint is extremely small (HINT: use the box to roll your dice in), so it’s perfect for traveling. What’s nice is the gameplay feels like you’re using a joystick and button to bring down the aliens. It might just conjure up some nostalgia for the arcade version. Plus, you’ll save some quarters. 

SCORE
4 out of 5 Solos

PROS
  Games take less than 10 minutes
  Very small footprint
  Mechanics resemble the actual arcade game
  Two ways to play solo

CONS
  Multiplayer not as fun as solo
  Print on white dice could fade with lots of use



Gregory Gregory Author

Gencon 50 Recap


A weekend of tabletop board gaming. Does that sound like fun? It did for thousands and thousands of gamers as they packed the Indianapolis Convention Center to get a taste of the newest games, shop for a food deal, and/or participate in tournaments. And being the 50th anniversary of Gencon, it was guaranteed to be a crowded affair. We Roll Solo had a chance to visit on the Friday of the convention. (Other engagements kept us from staying all four days.)

 
Playing Visitor

I had set up an interview with Alison Haislip (G4’s Attack of the Show), who was representing Iello and has a special King of Tokyo token in her likeness, but that was at 2:30. Her interview is coming soon. After getting the press pass, there was still 90 minutes before the exhibit floor open, so I strolled through the gaming and tournament hall where most of the events required tickets. Many gamers looked exhausted from hours of gaming, but remained exuberant about whatever game they were playing. That, or they were hopped up on energy drinks or caffeine.

The gaming hall was packed early morning, with players signing up for demos, tournaments and general gameplay. You could play a life-size version of Catan, or take in the multitudes of games and miniatures set up around the room.

As the time got closer to 10 am, I headed back out into the hallway and closer to where the press room was located. That didn't matter: The throng of convention-goers came to a stand-still, like a traffic jam on I-294. I hung out off to the side for a few minutes after the main doors opened and waited until the crowd thinned. Once the exhibit doors opened, board gamers of all types rushed in. As I suspected after viewing pictures from Thursday, the crowd spread out, and moving through the main hall was no problem. There were some bottlenecked places, but if you came to Gencon 50 with expectations of easy and roomy maneuvering, that's on you!

Playing Modern Art
I spent an equal amount of the day shopping the booths and playing impromptu games at the many tables set up by publishers and designers looking to show you their games. First, I walked through the energetic CMON booth and played Modern Art, a fun auction-style game that uses art from real, contemporary artists. I played Visitor, a decent deduction game for 3 or more players where an alien has crash-landed in the woods and a kid discovers him. The alien and kid work together to keep federal agents from arresting them by creating secret patterns with objects on the cards. I also played Pandemic: The Cure, but I already knew the rules since I often play it solo. In fact, the girl running that table was told a few minutes before she’d be hosting that game. She admitted she didn’t know the rules, so I taught her and one other participant to play. Hopefully she managed okay later! One of the more interesting games I learned – one I didn’t think I’d enjoy – was Drawing Dead, a poker variant that includes role cards with special powers to help your hand or hinder an opponent’s hand.

For purchases, I picked up Mint Works, the expansion to Terraforming Mars called Hellas & Elysium, and Shahrazad from Osprey Games. (All three will be reviewed on We Roll Solo.)


Overall, Gencon 50 was a great experience. If you’re into board games and have never gone to a Gencon, you should. Next year may not be as crazy as this year’s 50th anniversary, so the city and convention center will be less crowded for your tabletop enjoyment!


Games Mentioned in the Recap


Gregory Gregory Author