Going Solo: Elder Sign
I have had the Elder Sign Omens app for some time and although I initially found it random and irritating, as soon as I discovered how to win I started to really enjoy it. So eventually I decided to get the physical version.
Just opening the box was exciting, as the components are excellent and the artwork exudes the Lovecraftian theme. You play a number of investigators (four works nicely) who are trying to stop an ancient one from awakening and destroying the world as we know it. It’s the usual story.
You lay out a series of adventure cards and you send an investigator to one of your choice to try to overcome its challenges by rolling the custom dice to get the appropriate symbols. You can also use your investigator’s items and abilities to give you re-rolls and extra dice. You can focus a die if you fail a roll which will make the next roll easier. Once you beat the adventure card you collect the items and bonuses from it. If you fail, you may lose health and sanity, but there are ways to heal your investigators.
All these options add up to a lot of dice rolling fun as you try to beat the adventures to win Elder Signs in order to defeat the ancient one.
But it’s not as easy as it sounds, because when the clock strikes midnight bad things can happen that could set you back or advance the awakening of the ancient one. Monsters can appear and make adventures even more difficult, and some adventure cards have extra midnight effects which can damage your investigators or take away bonuses whenever the witching hour strikes.
There are a good selection of investigators to choose from and also a nice choice of ancient ones for them to take on, who have varying levels of difficulty.
The footprint of the game isn’t too big and it’s an ideal solo game for anyone who likes Lovecraft and dice rolling.
Going Solo: Chainsaw Warrior
Chainsaw Warrior is a game from 1987, from what I think of as the golden age of Games Workshop. Other games from around this time included Blood Bowl, Talisman, Blood Royale, Block Mania, Rogue Trooper, Kings & Things, Dungeonquest, Fury of Dracula, Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Warlock of Firetop Mountain, first edition Warhammer 40,000, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, as well as Warhammer Fantasy Battle of course.
Chainsaw Warrior is a true solo game and involves the eponymous hero entering a complex of municipal buildings in Manhattan, that are the epicentre of an invasion from another dimension. Zombies and other terrible monsters must be defeated and hazards must be overcome if our hero is to destroy the terrible power behind all this mayhem. And there are only sixty minutes in which to do it.
The gameplay takes place on a board which serves purely as a time track, character sheet and rules reference. The adventure comes about from drawing from a deck of random cards. The arch enemy is hidden somewhere in the second half of the deck and can only be defeated by one weapon, the laser lance, unless Chainsaw Warrior blows up an explosive vest, killing himself into the bargain.
Your hero’s attributes, skills and equipment are all determined randomly so it’s likely you could end up with a character with no chainsaw, who isn’t much of a warrior, and who will be lucky to last five minutes.
In combat you can try to shoot if you have a gun, or you must fight hand to hand by rolling two dice and adding your melee skill, and doing the same for the monster, highest wins. If you are injured by a zombie you become infected and start to turn into one of the undead. Mutants can destroy you with radiation. Slime can kill you in a heartbeat if you miss a shot with the laser lance or flamethrower. The hazards are brutal and unforgiving, your laser lance can be destroyed which means you basically have to start again and won’t have enough time to finish.
The artwork on the cards is mid-eighties GW cartoony style. The game comes with a nice little comic strip to set the mood, and the rule book includes the story of how the designer, Stephen Hand, came up with the game. He is also responsible for Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Chaos Marauders and The Fury of Dracula so he was certainly prolific.
This is definitely a game of its time. GW was known for randomness and making things impossibly hard and unforgiving. It is a terrible game containing no elements of choice or skill in the gameplay whatsoever. The Android app version of Chainsaw Warrior looks great and is perhaps a better experience to play than the board game, but it is also a glitch-ridden mess.
But somehow, despite everything, this awful game still gets to my table, probably just through the power of nostalgia, and the fact that I’ll die quickly so it won’t take long. House ruling about hopeless characters, always starting with the chainsaw, and being able to choose equipment might help the ridiculous difficulty. As I acquired it only a few months ago I hope the novelty and nostalgia doesn’t wear off.
Going Solo: Rogue Trooper
I think one of the reasons I enjoy The Witcher Adventure Game is because it reminds me of Rogue Trooper. I was lucky enough to find a copy of Rogue Trooper recently as I foolishly got rid of my copy years ago. I also had the Lone Trooper solo rules from White Dwarf magazine, written by designer Richard Halliwell, who is one of my favourite of Games Workshop’s designers. I remember it being a really absorbing game, but would playing it now just be an exercise in nostalgia, like Chainsaw Warrior, or would I still love it?
I still love it.
Your aim is to uncover the traitor responsible for the Quartz Zone Massacre by completing missions to find clue tokens and build up a picture of the traitor. When it’s complete, the traitor appears on the bridge of the satellite Milli-Com, and the chase begins to bring him to justice (meaning kick his arse all over Nu-Earth) within the time limit of the Rogue Deck. If you defeat him in the time limit you win.
Throughout the adventure you have to overcome hazards and enemies, but you will also meet companions who will help you, as well as finding equipment and supplies.
The artwork is all from the 2000AD comic strip so you get completely caught up in the atmosphere. You can even get the GI biochips Helm, Gunnar and Bagman who give you special abilities. The Rogue Trooper playing pieces are great and you get loads of cards so no two games will be the same as you travel across the different areas of Nu Earth.
I still find Rogue Trooper a really satisfying and challenging game. In my first game since getting it again I managed to defeat the traitor with only one card left in the time track, and only then by using Bagman’s second salvo to push my fire power score beyond that of the traitor to take his final life point.
I love the board, the artwork and the components in all their mid-eighties glory. It is so much like The Witcher Adventure Game that I think Richard Halliwell surely deserves an inspiration credit from Fantasy Flight. I really enjoy both games but Rogue Trooper will always have a special place on my shelf and my table. It reasserts itself as my favourite game after finding it again after thirty years. I love it.