Playing By Myself in Nashville – Reviews of Free Solo Games!

I went on a rare business trip last week.  In order to get some training on a new program and voice-assisted manikins for computer-based CPR and advanced life support, a co-worker and I travelled to lovely Nashville, Tennessee.  Because I was leaving immediately after work on Wednesday, I stayed home from game night on Tuesday night to pack and, you know, actually see my family a little bit.  Before I went, I made some contact with a local game group in town, but unfortunately, their every-other-week Thursday night gaming was scheduled for the following week.  So it looked like last week was going to be pretty devoid of gaming (as well as game blogging, apparently).  

However, I decided to make some plans for games that I could play all by myself, and turned to a number of Print and Play games to find what I was looking for.  I also played a good amount of Roll Through the Ages, Keltis Oracle, and (yes, I broke down and got it) Carcassonne on my iPod.  Oh, and I took along the essential bits of Macao to get in a game using my solo rules, which you can check out here if you’re interested.

But anyway, back to the Print and Play solitaire games!  And keep in mind that the ratings I give here are still on the standard BGG scale.  They may seem low, but that would be in comparison to the “regular” games I play.  For their production quality, price (free!), and role (as solo games), they are all quite good.

Zombie in My Pocket

I’ve heard tons of good stuff about this little game, and was very excited to get the chance to finally play it.  The game is entirely made up of 16 small tiles, 9 cards, and a sheet of rules that comes with crazy directions on how to make it all fold up into a cute little booklet.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of time or money on putting together the game, so I just printed out the cards and tiles on cardstock and cut them apart, then printed the rulebook on regular paper and folded it like the directions showed me.  I then used a small binder clip to hold it all together, and it takes up less space than a deck of cards.  Heck, it’d almost fit in my wallet!

The premise is that you’re in a house in the midst of a budding Zombie-apocalypse.  Somewhere in the house is an Evil Temple, where you can search for some sort of zombie totem that is the cause of all the undead-walking mayhem.  You get it, take it to the graveyard (conveniently located just out the back door) and bury it before midnight, or the world goes to hell in a shuffling, corpse-driven handbasket.   

To play, you basically just flip over a new tile and resolve one event card when exploring new areas.  The cards have  events on them for the three different hours of the game (9pm, 10pm, or the 11pm hour), and depending on what the time is, different things will happen.  Some events or rooms will also let you look for an item, so you just flip over the next card and see which item you find.  Of course, you can also happen across zombies, which you can either fight (hopefully using some item that you’ve found) or run from.  You can even cower in a corner to recover some health (but waste some time).  You die if you run out of time (going through the deck 3 times) or die (lose all your health) before being able to bury the totem.

What impressed me most about  Zombie in My Pocket is how clever it is.  From the physical design of the game and rules to how so much information is conveyed on just the 9 cards, it just seems so well put together.  Gameplay itself, though, it a bit weak.  You’re completely at the whim of which tiles and cards come up, and while there are a few decisions to make, luck still seems to rule the game.  However, this is a free, print-and-play solitaire game, and in that context it’s a pretty awesome game.  Surprisingly, it’s got a lot of theme, and the game is enjoyable even if it’s not all that strategic.  In a “stuck in the airport and want to play something non-electronic” kind of situation, this would be one of the first things I’d turn to, and I plan on keeping my copy in my shoulder bag until it wears out and I need to make a new one. 
 
Rating: 7/10  
Download Zombie in My Pocket now!


Sneaking Mission – Solo

I heard about Sneaking Mission – Solo on the Print and Play Podcast, and it sounded like a pretty cool thing to try out.  There’s a bit more work to this game, since it’s made up of 104 different tiles that have to be printed out and cut apart.  I actually opted to print out and use a nicer set of tiles that were provided by a “fan” of the game, rather than the minimalistic tiles included in the original version of the game.  You also need a large number of tokens and a coin, but I had along my bag o’ dice, so I just used them for everything. 

The theme here is that you’re a secret agent dude who is infiltrating an enemy base looking for “secret plans”.  You flip over tiles as you explore the base, and have to deal with threats along the way.  If you encounter a guard looking the other way or asleep, you can sneak past him, but if you come face-to-face, you have to fight.  Combat is basically just a flip of the coin, and if you fail, you enter “alert mode”.  When this happens,  you have to get to a hiding place within 5 turns (or less), or you lose.  There’s also security systems to disable and ductwork that you can use to shortcut through the facility and ammo that lets you kill a guard from a distance, but basically that’s it.

Again, I really liked the theme of this game and how it was integrated into play.  I thought that there were a nice selection of actions that you could perform, and a good variety of tiles that you had to deal with.  There are even some basic strategies that you learn pretty quickly (mainly about having a hiding place ready if you take risks attacking guards).  The line-of-sight rules are clearly explained, and the rules for placing the tiles are pretty clever.  

If there’s any real downside to the game, it would be in the variable length.  You could conceivably discover the secret plans with the first tile you flip, and that would be pretty sucky.  But it would also take a really long time if it was near the bottom of the pile.  I actually died when I played, but it had already gone on for a while was starting to wear out its welcome.  What the game is just begging for is some stacking mechanic; where you could seperate out a certain number of tiles to use in the “end game” into which you would insert the secret plans.  After you finished up the rest of the tiles, you would start drawing from this end-game pile.  And for a shorter game, you could even remove a certain number of random tiles before you got started, but since you wouldn’t know what was removed, the game would still play out the same.  

Sneaking Mission – Solo is definitely a more involved and longer game, and it requires a lot more space and prep time, but I’d still recommend it.

Rating: 6/10
Download Sneaking Mission – Solo now!  And get these cool tiles to make it even better!   

The d6 Shooters

I’m pretty sure that I also heard about this on the Print and Play Podcast, and it’s actually a “series” of different scenarios (there’s currently just two of them) using the same basic rules.  All that’s required for this game is to print out a scenario sheet (and the rules, I guess) and then have some dice and a pen available.

In the “Long Road to Reno” scenario, you’re supposed to be a law man trying to get the leader of the Griggs Gang to trial in Reno.  You’ve got 40 days to do so, but have to continually deal with having enough food and water for you posse, surviving the extreme heat, and fending off members of the Griggs Gang who want to free their leader.  Each turn, you roll the dice (Yahtzee style) and try to get the results that you need.  One neat little twist is that three of the eight dice you roll are a different color, and if they roll a bad result (5 or 6) on the first roll, they are automatically locked.

The game is pretty darn hard, and while I actually lost because all my posse were killed, the biggest challenge for me was in being able to move fast enough.  There’s some real decisions to make in the game, both about which dice to keep and which to re-roll, but also about how to use the gold you collect and even on whether or not to take some shortcuts on the “map”.  The only real problem I had with the game was that it seemed too long for what it was.  Of course, I was also sitting in an airport when I played, and I may have just been getting tired of turning to the side to roll and mark my progress.  

Rating: 6/10
Download The d6 Shooters: Long Road to Reno now!  And the  Ghost Town Showdown scenario, too! 

Dice of the Living Dead

Dice of the Living Dead is based on the d6 Shooters system.  Because of that, all you need to play is a printout of the game sheet and a handful of dice.  To work best, you need dice of three colors (white, red, and black, preferably).  One thing I really liked about this was that instead of ticking off the spaces you moved to, the spots were big enough to use a token, pawn, or (as I did) another die to move along the track.  I tend to use dice to represent everything when I play these type of games (rather than writing on and discarding the sheet afterwards or laminating it for repeated use, which seems like way too much work), and this game was a lot more receptive to that kind of use.

DotLD is another zombie survival game, where you’re trying to move through your zombie-infested hometown, making it to safe houses along the way, and winning when you can get to the outskirts of town and escape.  You’re using the 5 white dice to move and fight, the black die to scavange for more food, ammo, and survivors, and the red die to determine the number of zeds you will encounter each turn.  In addition to tracking the number of survivors in your party, you also keep up with supplies, ammo, how many survivors are “infected”, and how long you have before you need to reach the next safe house.  

Overall, I liked this game quite a bit more than The d6 Shooters.  It seemed to offer more choices and a bigger payout in a shorter time than the other game.  When rolling the dice (again, Yahtzee style), there are some bad effects that take place (getting infected or losing time) even if you re-roll the dice.  So you’ve always got to weight the possible benefit of getting a better result against taking another hit to one of those elements.  And even in combat, there are lots of options about how to use your ammo and dice.  Plus, I probably like the zombie theme better than the wild west, and the game’s name just kicks butt!

Rating: 6.5/10
Download Dice of the Living Dead now!

Delve the Dice Game

I’ve talked some before about Delve the Dice Game, so I won’t say much more about it here.  It’s akin to both The d6 Shooters and Dice of the Living Dead, but it introduces character powers that you can use in different ways.  I did just discover that there’s also a simple, downloadable computer version available, so check that out as well!

Rating: 6.5/10
Download Delve the Dice Game now!
And check out the electronic diceless version too!  
    

14 Comments

  1. Adam Koehler

    I dig Zombie in my Pocket too. Just wish it had a touch more depth. Still, a very clever game.

  2. Chris Norwood

    I agree.  But I guess depth wasn’t necessarily the point of any of these games.  The “best” thing I played while on the trip was still solo Macao, but it was also a crapload harder to set up and play through.  For airport or even car games, these would all be pretty good (except for Sneaking Mission, which does take a little more space).


  3. Chris – this was interesting to read, especially given our (necessarily short due to my slackness) discussion of solo gaming this afternoon. I have the (no longer downloadable) files for a ‘Zombie in my Pocket’-styled game that is certainly not based on a game that rhymes with ‘Face Bulk’ and is published by a famously litigious company; but I haven’t got around to printing it off yet. I’ll have to do so and let you know how it is – I’m curious to see if it’s just a reskin of the Zombie one, or its own game.


  4. Chris, Thanks for this post. I will probably stop by on July 5th at Hypermind to see what you are all up to. I also downloaded the Zombie in my pocket game from this post, and am loving it. Thanks again!

  5. Chris Norwood

    Cool! 

    I don’t know if Hypermind will even be open on the 5th, though.  It’s usually closed on Mondays.  But we’ll definitely be around on the 6th for our regular game night!


  6. Zombie in my pocket has got a lot of theme, and the game is enjoyable even if it’s not all that strategic.

  7. Industrial Power Equipment

    I find the name zombie in my pocket a little weird, but I am sure the game is going to be really interesting by the looks of the physical design of the game and rules to how so much information is conveyed on just the 9 cards.


  8. I am not a big fan of computer games so all this information is wasted on me, however my sister loves internet and computer games.


  9. Zombie in my pocket is a really clever game, it’s got a lot of theme, and the game is enjoyable even if it’s not all that strategic.


  10. I found sneaking mission solo more interesting then the zombie game, the theme of this game and how it is integrated into play is really interesting.

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