Designing Solo

For the past week or so I have been working on a solo game based on metroidvania style video games. I have always wanted to create a board game implementation of the old computer roguelikes, and playing Rogue Legacy has opened my brain to some new ways to make it work in cardboard.

I miss the teamwork aspect, but designing solo has been great in some ways. I have complete creative control and it is really easy to have a playtest session when you only need to round up yourself to play.


Rogue Board Game

I’ve always wanted to create a roguelike board game, and was recently re-inspired to do so by two things.

One, I have been logging many hours playing Rogue Legacy on Steam. The game is one of the best designed, most fun metroidvania style games I have played and it has seeded many new ideas into my brain. 

The other is my newfound interest in solo board games brought about by my purchase of Castillion, a pretty good game that is actually fun to play alone.

Anyway, I already have a working game. Now it’s all about making it fun enough to develop solo.


I’ve been away for a few weeks and am amazed, once again, at how fast time passes when you aren’t paying attention.

Even as I have been silent on my board game blog, I have been buying and playing games.  I recently purchased Theseus: The Dark Orbit, Tides of Time and Castellion.  I have Castellion set up and am finding more opportunity to play than the others, as it is a solo game.

This is my second solo game outing, and while I enjoyed the other one(Friday) more, this game has some inspirational things going for it.

The most striking thing about the game is the way it is presented.  You open layer after layer and find cool art at each step.  It’s definitely one of the most interesting un-boxings and has made me consider the way games are first experienced by the people opening them.

Usually, it is a jumbled mess of bits crying out for organization, but in Castellion, opening the box is a cool experience.  If nothing else, Castillion has opened my eyes to an overlooked part of the board gaming.

Board Games as Social Lubricant

About 15 years ago, when board games entered a renaissance, I was excited about the social possibilities of board games. It would be fun to go out and meet new people while doing a thing I love. I imagined really finding my people.

As much fun as I’ve had playing games, the social promise has never fulfilled its potential. I play board games mostly with my family. So am I a misanthropic outcast? Are board games a bad way to hang out with new people?

They can be. It depends on the kind of game being played. For instance, I’ve played Cards Against Humanity many times with people I don’t know, and have had a blast. I’ve also had a good time with lighter games like Avalon.

A heavier game is a different animal. A longer playtime is a bigger commitment. More involved activity is better with an already established group of people for me. It also helps if they already know the game because learning a new game can be slow painful work.

So are board games a good social activity? Yes, depending on the whether the game fits the situation.

Do You Even Play?

Looking through the list of upcoming Kickstarters, I wondered who is buying all these games? Through the years, I’ve bought plenty of board games, and now only own a fraction of them. Guess what? I still have more games than I will ever need.

I notice the same trend with my Steam games. I have games I will probably never play. My life is just not long enough.

If a game looks cool, I naturally want to have it. Many games are brought out only once. Or not at all. They just sit on the shelf, waiting for their game night .

There is a definite lack of practical thinking behind most of my purchases and looking at the long list of upcoming games, I am not alone. But there are people who play just one board game. If the game’s deep enough, that’s fine, but it’s just not my style. Who’s buying the same games as me, letting them sit lonely on the shelf?

Going Solo

As local multiplayer has faded away in video games, board games have revealed their big advantage: you can get together with real live people in the same room, playing the same game.

So when Elephant Labs Kickstarted Sol: Last Days of a Star, I was surprised to hear that a significant number of backers wanted a solo option. I’ve always found solo board games to be pointless.

I’ve had mixed results with random board game meetups, and I can see why people like solo games. I’ve been to good meetups with a welcoming vibe and a friendly atmosphere. But board gamers can be a strange crew, and I have frequently felt unwelcome. After a few attempts to branch out and play with others outside my sphere, I have quit going.This leaves a small pool of players, limited to some family and friends.

Working on the solo version of Sol was one of the most rewarding parts of development. It turned out to be a blast and led directly to the co-op version, which is now my preferred way to play. It has changed my mind on the value of solo game play.

Legacy Games

For the past few days, I have been hooked on Rogue Legacy on Steam. What really makes the game isn’t the perma-death, but the parts that carry on to the next life. It gives me a sense of progression. With enough gold on a run through, I can unlock character classes and upgrades galore. I feel as if I am crafting something lasting, even as characters drop like flies.

Rogue Legacy made me think about the legacy format for board games. Legacy just means that something from the previous game carries over to future games. The most famous legacy board game is Risk Legacy, but I have always avoided it because I don’t like Risk. From what I hear, each game permanently alters the board and adds rules to subsequent games.

The legacy game I have played is Fabled Fruit. Each Fabled Fruit game starts with a different set of cards because cards are either unlocked or removed in each playthrough. Since each kind of card has different rules, the rules actually change over time. I played this once at a convention, so I don’t really know how it holds up over multiple plays, but I found the idea fascinating.

I am thinking of this concept for my future games.