While I'm working up the post for a sample game in Solo Adventures, I'd like to talk about strategy. This is the first of a 4-part series dealing with strategies in Solo. The series will break down as follows:
Part 1: Deck Restrictions, Themes, Deck Construction, Setup, Maps, and Card Draw
Part 2: Movement, Encounter Rolls, and constructing the opponent’s combat hand
Part 3: Combat, including Stronghold Combat, Champion Challenges, Guardian Challenges, wounds, and healing
Part 4: Experience, Treasure, the Threat Track, the Doom Counter, and beating the game
As you would expect, Solo requires completely different strategies than the base game. This is mostly due a number of factors:
• random creatures faced in combat, rather than a themed or planned opposition;
• little need to worry about losing due to controlling spaces or Shield kills;
• protecting your Champion from wounds;
• having only 1 Shield;
• a completely different movement system;
• different deck construction rules (no Magic Items or Terrain in your deck).
Your strategy must take into account all of the factors listed above.
We start our discussion with a look at restrictions, theme, and deck construction. When we refer to restrictions, these are the ways in which your deck does not change from game to game. These rules apply limits to what you are able to do. For example, a minimum deck size of 50 cards, a maximum of 3 Shields in your deck, and drawing 10 cards to start the game are all examples of restrictions.
A theme is a deck design in which there is some kind of commonality among the cards that allow them to work well together and conform to an idea or characteristic. An example of this would be an Undead-recycle theme, where the creatures are mostly Undead, with Spells and Magic Items that support Undead creatures, and the ability to recover them from your discard pile and put them back into play.
Deck construction is building your deck so that it fits a theme, conforms to restrictions, and is as efficient as possible. A well-designed deck should give you a good chance to win.
Let’s take a look at restrictions as they apply to deck construction:
• Minimum deck size: 50 cards
• No Magic Items and no Terrain
• No more than 3 shields
• No more than 5 of any one card
• No copies of your Champion in your deck
• Shields must match
In beginning deck construction, we start with a Shield in play. Subtracting the other 2 Shields from a total of 50 cards leaves 48 cards slots left to fill. Let’s look at a few essential building blocks. First, we need at least 2 Stronghold Upgrades. Why is that? Two reasons: a) they provide some kind of bonus or ability that, unlike a Spell or Magic Item, can’t be dispelled and b) if you don’t place Upgrades on your Strongholds, your opponent can place Downgrades there and cause you some pain. Keep in mind every time the Doom Counter changes, there’s a chance a Downgrade is coming at you. For your upgrade choices, a Teleport Tower is almost a given; it’s the best way to get creatures out to your Shield. You might even want 2, although a Sacrificial Altar may be more desirable for its ability to generate Power Stones. You should also consider having 2 Downgrades, one for opposing Stronghold #1 and one for Stronghold #3 to make your path through a little easier (Stronghold #2 can usually be taken right up the center). Remember, creatures defending in Strongholds usually get good bonuses for doing so, and a quick look at the Encounter Table reveals that Stronghold combat is tougher – a higher encounter chance, a greater chance to use bribery and ranged attacks, and a tougher level mix. Do yourself a favor and make it a little easier to punch through those Strongholds to the opposing Guardian. So that’s a total of 4 Upgrades/Downgrades, leaving you with 44 cards remaining.
You now have creatures, spells, and bribery cards to consider. I recommend a bare minimum of at least 3 of each bribery card (total of 9) to deal with sticky situations, so that leaves 35 card slots remaining. Spells in Solo are a little restrictive – you have to earn experience to learn new Spells, so try to limit Spells to no more than 2 or 3 different ones at 3-4 copies of each. Dispel Magic is going to be the most useful in countering opposing Spells and Command Cards. Three copies each of two Spells leaves us with 29 card slots. These remaining cards should be creatures, which are going to be invaluable for replenishing a depleted Shield.
Themes come into play based on the type of deck you want to run. Besides the undead-recycle theme, you can have flying, heavy channeling, stompy (large creatures), weenie (lots of small creatures), Terrain bonus, Demons & Devils, Knights & Angels, Barnyard Animals, Slag Beasts, Card Advantage, and lots more. For examples of some good deck themes, check out CJ’s blog.
For Terrain, you’ll want to choose types that are favorable to you and not favorable for the opponent. For instance, having Woods means you won’t have to face opposing ranged attacks, and using Jungle prevents your opponent from using Command cards. Add in a third Terrain that gives your creatures bonuses, such as Swamps or Rivers and Lakes, and you’ll be in good shape.
When it comes to Magic Items, there are a few that are almost a must-have. Anvil of Heaviness is a big help in getting through a Stronghold space. Footlocker of Conflagration is invaluable for finding a Shield when you need to remove a wound. Sarcophogus of Haidra works great at getting upcards into your hand, and gives you more room in your Storage Depot by not taking up space there.
Finally, choosing your Champion is the most important decision you can make. Of the 6 “standard” champions, the two weakest are Paladin and Beelzebub, and are best suited for the two easiest difficulty levels. Paladin is a good choice for a Knights deck, for the bonus he gives to other Knights, and an immunity to fear for your other Mortals. Beelzebub’s special ability does not really give you any kind of advantage, so he’s probably the weakest Champion.
The next highest difficulty level should be played with either Eternal Witch Lord or Old Nick. If you are leaning towards an Undead theme, Eternal Witch Lord is a strong choice for his ability to keep them alive after combat. Combined with an Altar of Takuli, you can expect very little attrition under your Shield. Old Nick, like Beelzebub, doesn’t have much of an ability, but his high vitality usually helps discourage ranged attacks and secondary attacks against him, and he typically uses fewer Power Stones to defend himself.
For the hardest difficulty levels I recommend Dragon Wing Lord or Lake Serpent. Both use AOEs that are very useful, as many of the opposing creatures you face will come from Deck Levels 1 & 2, most of which are going to get blown away by that AOE and help limit secondary attacks. Wing Lord has a little stronger AOE, but his cousin Lake Serpent gives you a good AOE combined with a Rivers and Lakes bonus, so play it with Rivers and Lakes Terrain and creatures for maximum effect.
If you decide to go with some other creature as your Champion, if it has a Vitality of 12 or less, make sure you put in plenty of healing safeguards (Altar of Takuli, creatures that can heal like Arwyddyn or Slag Bunny), and don't forget to pack your Power Lunches before heading out on the job. For example, Death would be a really cool Champion, both functionally and symbolically, if you could keep it alive and Power Lunch it for Champion combats.
There are of course 4 maps that reflect the different difficulties of the game. Map 1 is your standard map, the Gloomy difficulty level. You have more movement options on this map than any other map. Maps 2 – 4 restrict movement, and in some cases you can only move in one direction. In these cases a flying Shield often comes in handy for reducing encounter rolls. I’ll cover movement in the next installment.
The ability to draw cards is usually not a big factor in the game. For one thing, once your Shield ventures out, it’s hard to get creatures under it, so most creatures you draw will be sitting on your Strongholds. Second, as you take down opposing Guardians, you start to gain a card advantage by first eliminating your LDL modifier, and then gaining the MDL modifier. If you really want to get a lot of cards in your hand, Finn is your best option. When you place Terrain, use Swamps and Tomb of the Bulzuru as 2 of your Terrain choices. There’s a good chance that when Terrain is placed at the start of the game, you will already have 5 Swamps in play, giving you an extra 2 cards to draw each turn. P’Tal is a solid alternative by being able to roll a D6 for your draw (with a re-roll on a 1, you are guaranteed at least 2 cards).
I hope you find this post to be useful. Next post, we’ll look at movement, encounter rolls, and setting up the opposing combat hand.