Previous Post: Days of Discovery – Act 3
The original game design that lead to Days of Discovery was a solo-play game of a branching path with a target end location. And even the first drafts of Days involved having to get specific cards to trigger the movement between acts, as well as needing to have certain cards in a specific order to show the path from Portugal to the Land of Danger.
But with the addition of multiplayer rules, a lot of things had to change in order to make it work with the chaos that other players add to the system. A good portion of the 3-1/2 year development time was dealing with balancing the multiplayer game play with the solo game play. Generally, tweaking for an improvement in one mode meant weakening something in the other mode. Finally, it came to balance, and I’m really excited about it.
Along the way, I used a few touch-points to focus the solo game design. I want to thank folks in the BGG “1-Player” Guild for discussing what they liked to see in serious solo games. Here is what I came up with:
- Nearly the Same Game: The solo game should be pretty much the same game as the multiplayer game. They didn’t need to be 100% perfectly the same — but the decisions, feel, and strategy should be close.
- Small Footprint: I wanted to be able to play this game in a small area. I generally referenced a TV tray or airline tray table as the size of the play area. This was pretty arbitrary, but one that I stuck with as my own preference.
- Deck as a Timer: For there to be a sense of tension, there had to be something driving the game to an end-point whether you completed your voyage or not. The deck, in this case, becomes a timer — you get one trip through the deck.
- Win or Lose — Only Score the Wins: It’s possible to lose. Only the wins matter and get a score to show the quality of the win.
- Variable Difficulty (the special sauce): From the beginning, I wanted the player to be able to choose how difficult the game would play. I wanted players to be able to proudly say “I won with the King!” and understand how much harder that was than winning with one of the lower ranked Sponsors. Originally, you would pre-select the Sponsor (or, in some versions, Sponsors) that you would use in the game as your difficulty level. But I discovered a major improvement when I began with all Sponsors at the start of a solo game, and had the player work through securing as many of them as they could, with the final Sponsor being the one to determine the difficulty of the voyage itself. This added a very satisfying press-your-luck element and increased the value of the decisions you make around the order in which you will secure Sponsors. It took the game from 6 specific levels of difficulty to 36.
Acts 1 & 2 Intertwined …
The solo game starts with all 6 Sponsors on the table and a shuffled deck of cards. That’s it — no hand and no pool to start.
Then, the turn sequence for Acts 1 and 2 is slightly different than the multiplayer game — mainly to manage the pool more tightly:
- Create the Pool
- Draft Cards from Pool
- Discard Remaining Pool Cards
- Check Hand Size
- Secure a New Sponsor or Move into Act 3
And, yes, the same turn sequence is used for both Act 1 and 2 … in fact, the two acts become intertwined as soon as you secure your first Sponsor. Because, instead of immediately moving into Act 2 and then on to Act 3 with that first Sponsor, you have the option to try securing another Sponsor … and another after that.
In fact, the main thrust of the first half of the game is to figure out how many of the Sponsors you can secure before you *have* to load up your hand and launch your voyage. Wait too long, and you won’t complete the voyage (you lose) … go too early, and you win too easily — meaning you didn’t maximize your score, because you will have left some Sponsors on the table that you could have landed.
Act 3’s New Difficulty …
Act 3 plays very similarly to the multiplayer game — you setup Segments in the same manner, and on each turn you either complete the current Segment or you Forage. But, there’s one new wrench thrown into the solo game. On each card, above the ship icon, there is a section marked “Solo:” followed by one or more Sponsor icons. For you to use a card as your Segment Difficulty card, it must contain your final Sponsor’s icon in that section.
This card can either come from your hand or be drawn from the top of the deck … if you draw from the deck and it doesn’t have your Sponsor’s icon, it is discarded and the next card is drawn. This can be a little nerve-racking as you burn through the deck trying to build the next Segment. As you probably figured out, the higher ranked the Sponsor, the fewer cards in the deck have their icon … and the more likely those ships are 2’s and 3’s.
Ending the Game & Scoring
The game ends one of two ways … you complete your 5th Segment (you win), or the deck runs out and you are not able to complete your 5th Segment (you lose).
If you lose — that’s it, you take the “L” and reconsider some of your choices along the way … or just blame it on bad luck with the cards!
If you win, you get a score based on how many Sponsors you secured, and who the final Sponsor was. In long form, you can express this score as something like “4 Sponsors secured, ending with the Bishop.” In short form, I’ve taken to using “#S-R#” as the format, such as “4S-R3” for this example.
I’ve added a couple of extra “brag score” options in the rules for those who are really competitive and want to compare their “5S-R2” win to another player’s … but the real answer in that case is to aim at 5S-R1, or any 6S-x scores next.
The Full Rules …
If you’d like all of the details, you can check out the Google Doc of the Solo Rules … you will need to first read the Multiplayer Rules to understand everything that is going on, since the Solo Rules just tell you how the solo game differs.
The next article will touch on why I have 9 people listed in the “Historical & Cultural Research” acknowledgement in my rules. 🙂