Officially, Arcadia can be played with just a single player. There are official rules for solitaire play, but they are very minimal, and don’t make for very a exciting game–if you follow those rules, you’ll win every single time! Some have modified those rules, and implemented a time limit for each Quest; if you don’t complete the Quest in time, you lose. That variant does work, and can be fun, particularly if used with “The Legend of Arcadia” rules, but after a number of games I’ve found them lacking in some ways too:
First of all, every Quest becomes a race against time, which tires after a while, and, particularly when following these modified rules, depend on cards that allow you to travel more than one League per turn.
But, more importantly, all the solo rules rely mostly on luck: the luck of your dice roll, of course, like every other Arcadia game, but also luck in encountering Waylays, which you draw from a random deck. What makes a 2-player Arcadia game good is the strategy that is involved in completing your own Quest while also making it more difficult for your opponent to complete his. The solo rules mostly remove the strategy, or reduce it to a minimum: you just move from League to League, encounter Waylay after Waylay (and perhaps occasionally retreat), until you’ve come to the end of your Quest. There are no real surprises–no Flaws that can suddenly be exhausted, Arts played against you, Treasures stolen from you, or a strategically played, powerful Savvy Waylay played against you just as your Savvy Ability got exhausted.
I’ve been trying solo variants that involve more strategy, or at least more variety. I think I might be getting somewhere, very slowly, but it is difficult to find the balance between something that is challenging–I don’t want a guaranteed win–and yet not discouraging, and something that does rely on luck and can be unpredictable, yet also requires some strategic thinking and perhaps even elements of role-playing and storytelling. Perhaps I’m trying to do too much, but I’d love to be able to keep the elements that make 2-player Arcadia so much fun.
I’ve gone through quite a few ideas and version, and continue to come up with new things. The rules are far from complete, and continue to change dramatically, and it might take a little while before I have something worthy of sharing here. But while I am working on that, I’d love to hear from other solo Arcadia players. What do you do–how do you play it? Do you follow any published rules, or do you have your own house rules that you’ve developed? What do you like about solo play, and what would you like to see improved?