I spend almost all of my evenings on my professional GMing business. My schedule is almost always full and all my games naturally take place in the evenings, when my clients have time to play. This means I am never available in the evenings and therefore can almost never play in a D&D game just for the fun of playing in one. My spare time is entirely in the mornings and early afternoons (day job permitting), which means I’m playing a lot of solo games. Let’s talk about which ones are any good.
Avalon Solo Adventure
I backed this one on Kickstarter recently, and it’s…okay. These are fundamentally Choose Your Own Adventure books where occasionally you stop to play a D&D combat encounter against yourself. It’s kind of like Fighting Fantasy, except instead of one character with two stats, you have four characters with full 5e character sheets. And also the branching paths aren’t total fucking bullshit intended to get you to die and restart like eighteen times until you brute force the solution.
Unfortunately, Avalon Solo Adventure isn’t super well designed. I mean, it’s better than Fighting Fantasy, but that’s a low bar to clear. The lethality of many of the adversaries seems to have been drastically underestimated, with a level 2-3 party being tossed in against ten bandits and a leader not once but multiple times with no opportunity for a long rest. This is insane – according to DMG guidelines, such an encounter would be considered deadly until 8th level. Although their scheme of randomly populating a dungeon allows for loops and branches, their dungeons do not actually contain any of these things, and are all strictly linear. Some of the faction systems are bizarre as well. Most factions you join require you to spend 3-4 days out of a week working for them, but many, many quests take 4+ days, which means joining a faction locks that character permanently out of quite a few quests undertaken for any other faction or for no faction in particular.
There’s also quests only available to people who have at least one point of favor with dwarves or elves, but the only way to get that first point of favor is to have a dwarf or an elf in your party, so if you’re playing the All Dragonborn Party then you get locked out of some content completely. Fair enough that there are some factions who don’t want to hand out their quests until they have a reason to trust you, but there should be some way of earning that trust unless it is specifically an element that dwarves and elves are so deeply xenophobic that they trust nobody who isn’t of the same race, something which doesn’t come across anywhere except in quest prerequisites (including the actual quest text). This element is a weird sort of contradiction where it is simultaneously presumed that dwarves never confide in non-dwarves, but also that most adventuring parties will contain both dwarves and other races.
I like Avalon Solo Adventure in theory, but I can’t really recommend it due to its weak execution.
D6 Shooters is a series of three different western solo print and play board games. Your goal is to get from point A to point B in a certain amount of turns and sometimes accomplish something specific at point B when you get there. Exact rules vary from game to game, but in the first one, you roll five white and three red dice. You’re hoping to avoid 5s and 6s, which are bad, 1s, 2s, and 3s all do a specific something good (although 2s and 3s also require you to have a set of them), while 4s can be spent on a number of different options, all of which are situationally beneficial, but which generally require more dice to accomplish what a 1, 2, or 3 does automatically. For example, you can trade two 4s to move one space on the board, but every 1 rolled moves you one space forward automatically. You can reroll any amount of dice up to two times on each turn, but rerolling red dice is dangerous, because any 5 or 6 rolled on a red die is locked in and cannot be rerolled on subsequent turns. Rerolling anything that isn’t a 5 or 6 can be dangerous, because it could always get worse, but if you’ve got a stray 3 that you can’t make a set with, you may as well try it. So it’s a little bit like Yahtzee, except you’re riding through the Old West trading gunshots with a bandit gang.
The board always contains some branching paths on it (although, of course, everything ultimately leads to a single destination) and some squares are good to end your turn on and others bad, and some ask you to draw a card for a random event, which will often be “give up X resource for Y resource,” sometimes in the form of “spend X resource if you have it to prevent the depletion of mission critical Y resource.” There’s a lot of randomness in the game and enough decisions to make about resource allocation that it feels like you’re doing something while you play, but really the game is almost purely luck-driven. A good run is one in which you, by chance, happen to get lots of good rolls in the right places and are successfully able to predict which resources you’ll need in abundance and which you can trade away. A bad run is one in which you roll poorly or guess the cards in the event deck wrong. Since the event deck is just a randomly shuffled stack of cards, you can’t really predict its contents the way you could try to with a human.
D6 Shooters delivers on providing enough engagement to make it feel like you’re playing a game and that can make the die rolls and card draws exciting, but it would not be inaccurate to say that it’s Candyland with extra steps.
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