Into the Unknown — A Solo Variant

Life was simple, and your world was small. You never wandered far from your home town. Apart from the occasional travelling merchant and the rare wanderer passing through, the only people you ever met were those born within a day’s walk from the house in which you were born, and the only ones that you actually knew were those that were born in your town, or those that married those who were born there.

But the pleasures, however genuine, of that small world, were not enough to keep you there, and one morning, the longing for the lands beyond the horizon that had grown within you since childhood flared up once again. You decided it was time to see more of the world. That day, you left the world you knew so well (the only world you ever knew!), its comforts, and securities, and faced the unknown. You remind yourself that this was but a few days ago, though your old life now seems as many years behind you as the miles you have travelled.

Somehow, you got caught in an adventure beyond your wildest childhood dreams. Who knows where it will bring you? During your travels, you will explore the new, wide world of Arcadia, and discover its many surprises, dangers, and wonders, as you roam from place to place, searching for new quests, more treasures, and perhaps a few trusted friends who are willing to share your journey.

quest-icon2

This is a variant that can be used in combination with most other variants or with standard rules. These variant rules only change the way you play Leagues and move into new Leagues. Every other aspect of the game—the way your Character is created, the way you encounter Waylays, the way you win or lose the game, and so on—can be taken from any of the other existing variants.

In this variant, you build a map of Arcadia while you travel through its Leagues. You are roaming blindly, and have no idea what lies around the corner, or where Eidolon or the Ruins of Srissan really are, or how long you could follow this river before you reached the ocean. In this variant, you do not play Leagues during setup, as you would in the standard rules. Instead, you will build a deck of League cards that you can draw from before you move into a direction with no Leagues in play.

During setup, choose about 20 Leagues from either one of the sets of cards (either The Wyld Hunt, or King Ironheart’s Madness). (You could use more Leagues, if you like, but the more Leagues you use the longer the game will likely be.) Choose Leagues that can, reasonably, be played together—don’t have one pure marsh League when you have no other League that can border it—but make sure your selection contains some variety of Terrain types. One easy way to do this is to select a section of the map of either Ardenmore or Middlemarch, and use those Leagues.

Choose your Base Camp, and place it on the table. Shuffle the remaining Leagues you have selected into a League Deck. Place this League Deck within easy reach, with the map side up (the League info side down). If you can place the top League anywhere adjacent to your Base Camp, following the standard rules for playing Leagues, place that League. If not, place it at the bottom of the League Deck, and see if you can play the next one. Do this until your Base Camp has Leagues on every legal side (generally on all 4 sides, but less if your Base Camp is a border League). Once this is accomplished, reshuffle the League Deck, and place it within easy reach. You will draw from this deck every turn you move into a new League.

At the beginning of each turn, if you are planning to move into a new League that turn, you will draw League cards from the top of your deck and try place them adjacent to your current League. If you move to a League that is already in play, you do not draw new League cards. If you can not move to a new League (because you are engaged up by a Waylay, for example), you do not draw new League cards either.

Place the League cards in clockwise order: first North, then East, then South, then West. If the League at the top of the League Deck can be played in the first available position, place it there. If not, see if it can be played in the next available position, and so on. If it can not be played at all, move it to the bottom of the deck, and draw a new one. If you can play that in the first available position, play it, and draw a League for the second position. Otherwise see if you can play it on any of the other positions, in clockwise order. If not move it to the bottom of the Deck. You are only allowed to draw two cards for each position, so the next card you draw can not be placed in the first available position, but you have to start at the second (or the third, if you were able to play one of the first two cards you have drawn on the second position). Once each position has a League in place, or you have drawn up to 2 cards for each position. Note that you can’t draw two Leagues and choose which one you play—the first playable League has to be placed in the first available position, and can not be exchanged for another League drawn once it is played.

If you were not able to play any League this turn, you can’t move. Imagine that the weather has turned, and a storm is now coming, so you’ll have to stay in your current League for another day.

For a League to be playable, ordinary rules apply: only a single feature needs to match. Thus, a League with an edge that has both forest and river Terrain can border either a League with a forest Terrain, or one with a river Terrain, or one with both.The new League will also have to match the Terrain of other Leagues already in play that it will border. Keep in mind that no League can be placed next to a border Terrain, except an ocean League.

This probably sounds more complicated than it really is. Let me illustrate it with an example:

Blackrock Pass

You moved into this League (Blackrock Pass, from The Wyld Hunt) from the East. There are no Leagues to the North, South, and West. You draw the top card from the League Deck. If this has a (long) border with a River or Mountains Terrain type (or both), you can place it to the North of Blackrock Pass. If not, you can try to match it with the Southern and Western side (in that order): for the South, it would need (long) border with Hills or a Road; for the West a (short) border with a Road or Mountains. Whether you were able to place the League you drew in the South or West or not, you draw the next League. If you can play that in the North, play it there, otherwise try South and West again (if you had not placed a League there earlier). If you could not place this second League in the North either, you’ll have to try to match the next League you draw in the South, or, if you can’t place it there, in the West. If you have drawn 2 Leagues for the South that could not be played there, and, in the unlikely event that there still is no League in the West, you can draw up to two more Leagues to try and place in the West (but nowhere else).

Here is another example:

sibbylline-swamp

You moved the previous turn into the Sibylline Swamp (also from The Wyld Hunt) from the North, and now want to move onwards, to new lands, since you’d rather not go back in the direction you came from. You can only place a single League, to the East, since the South and West are borders. You draw the first League. If this has a River or Swamp on a (short) border, you play it to the East of the Sibbyline Swamp; if not, you move it to the bottom of the deck and draw another League. If you can’t play the second League, you can not draw another one, since you can only draw 2 Leagues for each direction.

After the Leagues are placed, you can move into a new League in any direction you chose. Pass the Enter and Leave trials, if any, as usual. The rest of the turn will proceed as per the normal rules (or the rules of whatever variant you follow).

If your Character has a Special Ability or Merit that allows you to travel for more than one League per turn, you repeat the process of placing new Leagues immediately after you have moved into the first League. If you are unable to play any Leagues the second time, you have to remain in that League. If you used a Merit to travel for more than one League that needs to be exhausted to use it, you will still have to exhaust the Merit, even if you were not able to travel as far as the Merit allows you to travel.

If you play with the Character Triton (from King Ironheart’s Madness), you will be able to move diagonally only to Leagues that are already in play.

This variant can make Quests in which you have to travel to a particular League particularly challenging, as you do not know where it will show up on the map, and you might have to retrace your steps before moving into a new direction. To avoid drawing the League you have to travel to to complete your Quest in the second turn (and thus complete the Quest in 2 turns), you could opt to shuffle that League into the League Deck only after you have moved 2 or 3 times.

What then do you do with Quest Treasures?

Before you start the game, select the Leagues where you will place your Quest Treasures. Note down which Treasures are at which Leagues, and shuffle those Leagues back into the League Deck. When you are able to play that League later in the game, place the relevant Quest Treasure under it.

The same rules apply if your Quest specifies that certain Waylays need to be placed on certain Leagues. If you have to travel to a particular number of Leagues for your Quest (as in Royal Cartographer or Reconnaissance Mission from The Wyld Hunt), select those Leagues before the game starts (possibly randomly, if the rules by which you play the rest of the game do not specify otherwise), note them down, and shuffle them back into the deck.

This variant may not work too well with some Quests, like Marauders (Quest 2 of The Wyld Hunt) or Hunted! (Quest 2 of King Ironheart’s Madness), in which you have to place Waylays on specific Leagues and then move them each turn. I have not tried this variant with such Quests. But you could try this: assign each Waylay to a specific League (and note this down). Whenever that League comes into play, you bring the Waylay also in play, and begin moving it then. If you also have to reach a specific League (like in Hunted!) only add that League to the League Deck after you have brought all those Waylay Leagues into play. If you come up with a different solution, let us know in the comments!

Advertisements

Do you play Arcadia solitaire?

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?