The Top Ten Solitaire Boardgames of All Time

Sweet! Okay, let’s see, you obviously put Tapestry on there to troll me. Nice job. I’m sure you have a real #5 pick you’ll share with me someday.

Grrr, okay, I’ll try Pandemic: Fall of Rome. I’ve been curious about it for a while, along with the Pandemic: Dikes games, but if Fall of Rome is on a Hassan Lopez top ten list, I’m game. I’m still really mad at Pandemic: Cthulhu. It’s junk, basically. If I was shooting videos, I would rant so hard about Pandemic Cthulhu. The aggravating thing is that I like Chuck Yager’s first Lovecraft game, Rise of Cthulhu, a clever little two-player head-to-head cult battle. But then they give him the Pandemic license and he makes that? So I just ordered Fall of Rome. I like that it looks more like a States of Siege game than a Pandemic game.

My only issue with picking Paper Tales is that I still feel it’s a multiplayer game with a solitaire mode. A really good one, and I like how they set up the “bot” you’re playing against. But good pick anyway. I’ve played more Paper Tales solitaire than with other people. Also glad to see the Unicornus Knights love.

Does the Knizia Lord of the Rings work as solitaire? I played it a looooong time ago and barely remember it, but I thought there was either some hidden information component…or maybe a 1 vs. many element with a Sauron player…or some weird thing that kept it from being solitaire. Am I misremebering?

The Lord of the Rings card game has got to be a hopeless cause at this point, right? There are just too many cards, too much Fantasy Flight cruft, too many broken power curves and obsolete decks and useless cards, right? It’s your favorite for reasons of nostalgia, right? Like, there’s no reason for a new person to come to Lord of the Rings at this point in time, is there?

Tell me more. Why is it your favorite, how has it held up over the years, and what shape is it currently in?

-Tom

There’s an expansion that lets someone play the Knizia LOTR as Sauron, but that was optional. It’s been a long time since I played LOTR, but as I recall you’re not supposed to tell the other players what you have in your hand. I think it’s basically just to make it more difficult to optimize.

@tomchick In Champions of Hara, how do you handle the pvp missions solo? Just ignore them?
Do you have the expansion, and is it a worthwhile addition?

@tomchick How far down the list would Too Many Bones be? I’ve been meaning to try that one, but hesitant to pull the trigger (due to obvious reasons)

Well, it’s not like I can play them solitaire. :) But, yeah, I haven’t really played much multiplayer Champions of Hara. I’ve tried the basic arena mode a few times, but I don’t recommend it. If you’re going to play head-to-head, scenarios are the way to go. Also, ignore the unlocking system. Just use each character’s passive and alternate ultimate from the get-go. It gives them much more personality.

Yep, I have the expansion and I like it a lot. There’s a Champions of Hara thread here where we talk a bit more about the Chaos expansion. You can also find some discussion of specific scenarios to try.

-Tom

Thanks I’ll drop into the thread!

I’m glad you got to try it, @charmtrap, although I can’t imagine why you pressed other people into service for a solitaire game. :) I’m with @kerzain when he says:

Which scenario did you play? Did any of the characters stand out for you guys?

It does sound like the “grammar” of the game didn’t work for you. Which is fair enough, and I think you can see why so many people complain about the rules being supposedly terrible. But one of the things I love about Apocrypha is how explicit the grammar is. Sentinels of the Multiverse drives me batty for how each card is just a block of fucking text. It’s just rules written out, and I have to read the card every time, without the benefit of symbols or icons. Such a simple game and they feel the need to present it like a goddamn essay.

Apocrypha is the opposite. The cards could simply spell out in English what they do. I think that’s what a lot of people prefer. But because they adhere to a strict grammar, a strict format of a) who can play the card, b) the name of the step when it can be played, c) a dash followed by the cost to play the card, and finally d) a colon followed by the effect of the card, and because they have an elegant arrow/circle iconography to indicate player(s) and positions, I can tell at a glance exactly what the card does, and it can do all kinds of funky things in all kinds of funky ways without me having to re-read a block of text.

For instance, the Murder Board. It basically helps a Rage check. But when you parse the line on the card, you see that you can’t use it yourself (except for the Boost effect that all cards have, of course). You can only use it on someone else’s behalf. Furthermore, they then put the card on the bottom of their deck. It makes them stronger. Contrast this to a Sword Cane, which is a hidden item that you can only use with someone to your left or right. Unlike a Murder Board, you can’t just hand over a Sword Cane in public! These cards serve a similar function – they help during Rage checks – but they have very different rules, they interact with the game in different ways, and it’s all spelled out in Apocrypha’s explicit grammar instead of written as a block of text I have to read.

Basically, the rules book for Apocrypha teaches you the grammar. The components – the items, enemies, characters, locations, mission structure cards – teach you the rules.

I don’t think you need to memorize it. It’s all listed on one page in the manual. And the arcane symbols you mention are actually, to me, really intuitive. Down in you, up is anyone at your location, left it to your left, and right is to your right. For instance:

They both matter! That’s the up arrow. That means anyone at your board position. The left and right arrows are a matter of character order, and they figure into character’s relationships to each other, which is something you want to set up when you play. Just as the arrows indicate who can use a card, the position of the virtues on a character card indicate who can assist someone (down is you, up is anyone at your location, left is to your left, right is to your right). Basically, you want someone weak in a virtue connected to someone strong in a virtue. Their seating position means they’re linked regardless of where they are on the board. Otherwise, they need to stick together geographically.

Hmm, cruft? Maybe we have different understandings of what that means, but that’s not a word I would use for Apocrypha. I think of cruft as something borderline useless and distracting.

But I hope it works out better for you solitaire. Did you at least like the way the dice worked compared to Pathfinder?

Four characters is better, because then the left/right relationship isn’t all-inclusive! :)

-Tom

Oh, lordy, I couldn’t disagree more. The character development is one of Pathfinder’s strong points, both in terms of how your character’s abilities progress and in terms of getting cool magic items. Characters even hit a dramatic specialization stage where they became almost a whole new class. Improving your character and finding cool new stuff is a real pull forward in Pathfinder, and I’m convinced it wouldn’t have been as commercially successful if they hadn’t played that up across successive adventures.

And, yes, Apocrypha is different on that score, because it has none of that. :( That’s a common criticism of Apocrypha. Lone Shark did some really cool character progression in Pathfinder, and it’s almost completely absent from Apocrypha.

You don’t get the permanent fragments until you get out of the tutorial chapter! I don’t think Candlepoint has any permanent (they’re called “enduring”) fragments. But the other chapters have an enduring fragment on the other side of each mission’s card. That’s the reward for beating the mission. That can make a pretty big difference, but they can’t hold a candle to the way each character uniquely develops in Pathfinder. In Apocrypha, any character can equip any fragment, fleeting or enduring. It feels really random.

-Tom

Well, pulling a number out of my hat, I’d say it’s in the top 20? I like it a lot, and we talked about it a bit on the podcast here. But it certainly isn’t cheap.

But talk about character progression systems! The character progression in Too Many Bones – all in the context of a given game, by the way, instead of spread across multiple games – is really gratifying and lends itself to so much exploration.

-Tom

I strongly disliked playing Dawn of the Zeds solitaire. I gave it four or five attempts before selling it, incorporating more and more of the materials as I played. I think I would enjoy playing it with Tom.
I strongly agree about Onirim. Something very compelling about that game; I always want one more match.
I just bought way too much Apocrypha merch on the manufacturer’s site. Sorry I couldn’t do the usual amazon link, Tom. But its rare that I consider buying a game second hand.
I worry about the cooties (the bugs not the game featuring bugs).

There was some talk in that thread about the Hara expansion being out of print. If anyone’s interested, it’s supposed to be coming back to retail later this summer (July 1, if you believe Miniature Market).

Ditto on Onirim. It was such an easy game to learn, and each game goes by in ten or fifteen minutes. My biggest issue with it is the amount of shuffling required, but even that’s an understandable requirement.

I found a copy on eBay, import from the states for about the same price as my local wanted for a pre-order that arrives in September.

If anybody would like to play Onirim without the shuffling, there is a free Steam version of it (there are two cheap expansions):

Ha!

I think that’s a good way of putting it. It’s my newest solitaire acquisition, so its presence in my top 10 may be premature, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. The dice are a pleasant addition and the specific tweaks for true solitaire play are welcome.

Absolutely. No hidden information, just a typical 2 (or 3, or 4) handed solo game. This is my nostalgia pick. I don’t play it nearly as much as I used to, and there are certainly dozens of better solitaire games out there. But the multiple boards are lovely and the cardplay is tight and interesting. It was an influential game.

Well, there’s a lot I could say here, but I’ll labor to be brief. Yes, it absolutely is a tough nut to crack for new players. A substantial portion of my love for the game is tied up in the deck-building, which is dependent upon having a extensive card-pool, which is burdensome and costly. But the deck-building is oh-so-satisfying, and the mechanics of the game (including new ones introduced by the multitudes of expansion packs) are thematically consistent and almost always impressively clever. The designers just put so much thought and creativity into this game, especially when it comes to particular deck “archetypes” and how to mesh LOTR theme with how a type of card plays (e.g, Hobbits having low threat, Ents coming in exhausted, etc.). It’s a game I come back to again and again, sometimes with years in between plays, only to find myself ordering another deluxe expansion and spending hours upon hours building decks and failing scenarios.

Less shuffling in the free Android version

You sold me Tom. My cart now has Fields of Arle ready to buy. So too is Legends of Andor. I suspect it would have made your list somewhere if 10 wasn’t such a nice round number. I do remember you singing its praises a little while back.

Obviously Mage Knight would be his #11

Yes! I downloaded that, too, and played the hell out of it the week my son was in the hospital. Great app. I thought I paid for it, so I’m wondering if it now just runs ads as a free version.

It includes one of three expansions for free and offers to sell you the other two, and it offers to take you to a store for Asmodee games like Ticket to Ride, Mysterium, etc