[Going Solo] Does Board Game AI Need Rules Too?

Once again, I like board games I can play solo. When I hear a game has a solo mode, it immediately ups the value to me. I can’t always get people over to play a game so giving me more options on ways to use the game is what matters.

But they aren’t always good and not every game has a well thought out solo player mode.

The worst part about that is that I feel it can be hard to judge a solo mode without playing it. They can be good and retain the experience like Pandemic, they can present a new way to play it like Apex Theropod Deck-Building Game, or they can mimic the experience and fail like Mow Money. The problem with the mimic feature is that it creates this seemingly arbitrary AI that doesn’t follow the same rules of the player in order to give a challenge.

Typically this change involves the game taking options away from the player by not sticking to the same limitations. In Mow Money, the opponent would just get cards without trying regardless of what cards they had. Without having to try to obtain things, it lessens the experience for me. It brings up the question of if they don’t have to follow the rules, why do I?

I’m not saying the AI needs to play exactly like I do but that they should be taking options that mimic the ones I have to as well. Small things like not taking everything available and scoring points from them. Instead, if they are to take the two remaining cards, maybe they take the high point card for scoring and just discard the other one. These tiny tweaks might be enough to make the experience better.

Or are these oppressive AI opponents what other gamers really want? My example of Mow Money had the AI winning by 10-20+ points each time and didn’t feel balanced. It is good to play vs people better than you cause you learn better techniques that will help you, but if the better “person” is not doing the same actions that other players would be, are you really learning anything? Those things you may be learning won’t necessarily be applicable against human players.

Maybe these are games that had a forced-in solo mode after they decided to make a game. Maybe I am just not hardcore enough for these. Regardless, it won’t stop me from trying new solo experiences and I hope to try to share them with you. You might see one on Age of Towers very soon!

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