Three Over the Top

The 2019 People’s Choice Top 200 Solo Games have been revealed this week. My friends Athena and JW of Solitaire Times have joined me for a trinational rant about breaking the plastic budget, the pirate scare and hobbits.

10. Too Many Bones

Arvid: I don’t understand the fascination with pirates in geekdom let alone in pop culture in general. To me pirates are even less evocative than superheroes. Until right after I finished writing the last sentence I thought that this game was about pirates, and that’s why I hadn’t even glanced at it before. While writing, I realized that I’d better check out the BGG entry to avoid potential embarrassment, and… It turns out it’s some kind of plastic, colorful fantasy game that looks like somebody made a counting frame out of discarded toys.

Athena: Too many hideous dice. If I had money to spend on plastic chips, I might go with Cloudspire instead. The Too Many Bones world and the goblin-like people leave me cold somehow.

JW (looks up from the luxurious edge-stitched playmat, perfectly happy): Have we started? This one’s good, isn’t it?

09. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

JW: I hate hobbits.

Athena: They’re not that bad. Didn’t you like them in the Lord of the Rings movies?

JW: Little whiners. I really can’t stand them.

Arvid: They are like children trapped in children’s bodies.

JW: But I’m glad it was popular, so we can pick up Arkham Horror: The Card Game and Marvel Champions: The Card Game now.

08. Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island

Athena: This didn’t make my top list because I haven’t played it solo, only co-op. It’s a great game, and deservedly ranks so high. The latest expansion was so-so, but at least it made me take it off the shelf again.

Arvid: Couldn’t agree more. It’s my #6. A brilliant game and more accessible than I had anticipated. Playing well doesn’t guarantee victory. The thrill of chance enhances the tension of the story. The only thing I don’t like about Robinson Crusoe is the book that it’s named after.

07. Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Arvid: This one can’t be bad.

Athena: Yeah, I am resisting this game. I don’t want to go to my friendly local dealer each month searching for a dose. I also find the fact that you ‘have’ to buy two core sets borderline offensive.

Arvid: It’s sitting unopened on my shelf for those very reasons. I know that it has the potential of becoming even more of a lifestyle game than Aeon’s End. I love the theme as well as deck construction, campaign play and sprawling amounts of content, but at the moment I have neither the time nor the money for this, and getting into Aeon’s End has already lowered the publishing frequency on oneplayertwocats.com to a quarter of what it used to be…

JW: I only have one core set, it never bothered me. I really liked going through The Dunwich Legacy cycle. The story was well done and brought back memories of the original short stories. I am playing the “return to” boxes now, then will start on The Path to Carcosa. I find no joy in deck construction, but for this game I’ll gladly suffer it.

06. Gloomhaven

Athena: Perhaps I’ll take a look at Gloomhaven lite next year.

Arvid: Perhaps I’ll take a look at Gloomhaven next week.

JW: I sometimes look at it on my shelf.

Arvid: I’ll buy it at some point. As a good judge of my own character I know I’ll enjoy it.

JW: My own character sucks. So I was a bit disappointed in this one, and it’s completely my fault. Wrong expectations. Now that I’ve got me some traditional dungeon crawlers, I can play this game for what it does have to offer. I really should. Ha, you monster! I beat you with the top half of my card! Didn’t see that coming, huh?

05. Scythe

[silence]

JW: No one? Let me buy it for next year’s discussion then. Looks good to me. I voted for Caverna: The Cave Farmers as #5 myself this year. Then Glass Road on 4, A Feast for Odin on 3, At the Gates of Loyang on 2 and Nusfjord on #1. I have very diverse tastes.

Arvid: Wow… I guess you and Athena really complement one another. If you were running Solitaire Times by yourself it would have been called The Lookout Lookout. I had no idea you had entrenched yourself in a sowing furrow. By the way, Scythe looks good to me too. It’s a great multiplayer game. It’s sitting on my shelf loaded with two Automa decks and I’ll give it a go some day. Athena? What’s your take?

Athena: I love Automas as much as JW loves hobbits.

04. Aeon’s End

JW: Good sex, no love. This is my most played game this year. Like, over 50 times, not counting Legacy and New Age campaign plays. It’s new in my personal top-10 as well. But I have no warm feelings for it whatsoever.

Arvid: Definitely my most played game of the year as well, and my #2. After playing and reviewing Aeon’s End: The New Age, I bought all content that was available for it.

Athena: Legendary Alien is my number one. Yes, Aeon’s End is mechanically better. So what.

Arvid: I don’t doubt that Legendary Alien is thematically stronger, but playing through an expedition – the campaign mode introduced in The New Age – with a single mage, gradually changing the available cards and exploring the interactions somehow scratches my Magic: The Gathering-itch, and I want to scratch that itch almost every day.

JW: But don’t you mind all the shuffling in this game? That turn order deck is worse than Onirim.

Arvid: I love not shuffling my own deck more than I hate shuffling the turn order deck. There’s a great ratio of depth to complexity. Every decision feels important. The long set-up time and the turn order fidgetry don’t matter.

03. Terraforming Mars

Arvid: This is probably my favourite board game. I have all expansions except for the bad one and I’ve played it a lot. I never had the urge to try soloing it, though, so it wasn’t even on my list…

Athena: I’m waiting for the deluxe edition. Not really. My number 3 is Maximum Apocalypse. Way more fun, in my opinion.

Arvid: Are you one of those people who dislike the entire presentation of this game, components, artwork and all? I LOVE the artwork. It adds realism to the hard science fiction theme by combining sketches, blueprints, stock photography, microphotography and artist’s impressions in the same eclectic manner that a science magazine might do.

Athena: I’m one of those, yes. I don’t mind the card art so much, but the flimsy player boards that don’t hold the cubes I do.

Arvid: I hold my cubes in place with the recessed player boards from the Kickstarter edition of Turmoil. And to be honest, even with two cats jumping around, it never was much of a problem.

02. Mage Knight

Athena: I knew Spirit Island would dethrone Mage Knight this year. Having played neither, I can’t say I’m bothered. Besides, Dungeon Degenerates (my number 2) makes all other games irrelevant.

Arvid: I wish Mage Knight looked like Dungeon Degenerates. Speaking of looks, I also wish that the different components of Mage Knight didn’t look as though they came from different games. Was the person who did the layout for the cards not even allowed to talk to the people responsible for the boards or the tokens? Good game, though. Quite an involving puzzle. I haven’t played it in a long time, though, so it didn’t make my list.

JW: I was waiting for the app version by Dire Wolf to pick this up again. Hopefully next year?

01. Spirit Island

Arvid: The People’s new favourite is a game that I found dull, dry, unengaging and pretty ugly. Not that the previous #1, Mage Knight, is the pinnacle of visual design, though… I’ve only played Spirit Island cooperatively and I’ll never try it solo. The spirits feel like abstract entities and gameplay is extremely mechanical.

JW: *cough*Aeon’s End*cough*

Arvid: I have to admit that there are some clever mechanisms in this game, though, particularly the cyclic nature of the damage the colonizers inflict on the land and how that is represented by sliding cards on the board to mark time passing – explore, build, ravage, explore, build, ravage… A logical, clean, intuitive and thematic mechanism. Spirit Island is a heavy, complex, innovative eurogame with an interesting theme. I would have liked it if it made me feel like a spirit protecting an island from colonisation instead of an accountant solving sudokus in between work assignments. Dull, procedural, boring, dry. I’m sorry, but what did you expect from a gamer who’s #1 solitaire game is Arkham Horror (second edition)?

Athena: I may play this one day. I have postponed it because the artwork doesn’t appeal to me, and neither do the verbose names of the spirits.

Arvid: Yeah, the cartoony look of the spirits certainly doesn’t help. They should have used photographs of spirits for added realism and perhaps I would have cared.

JW: And onto the wishlist it goes. Great!


Thank you for reading! And thank you so much, Athena and JW, for joining up.

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