Sandwich? Check. Drink? Check. Board Game? What? Wait. No. What now?
Yes, dear friends. You did not misread the title nor the essential noontime checklist. We are entering a new era. In honour of Nick Welford (of Board Deck and Dice fame) and his new weekly Zatu Twitch stream “The Lunch Time Solo”, I am whetting your appetites with some delicious daytime gaming.
And for your edible pleasure, this is not just gaming. This is scintillating, savoury-sweet solo gaming.
Why is Nick indulging in some solo play alongside his midday meat and two veg? Well, with lunch tables being a less jam packed affair and more time being spent at home at the moment, it seems like a great time to delve into the world of one player gaming. And in fact, with board game collections so close to hand, grabbing a McGaming snack as the clock strikes twelve is a great way to satisfy our cardboard craving.
So, whether working patterns continue to revolve around the home going forwards, or we venture back into our usual places of work, here are 3 great ways we can enjoy a sumptuous side order of strategy and a double helping of crunch with our cheese and pickle pick-me-ups without having to share a crumb!
Herbaceous the Card Game is a game in which you are competing to plant and pot sets of delicious herb cards from a shared deck. With four containers to fill (each one specifying a different objective), you must decide whether each of the three cards you reveal on every turn is going to be planted in your own garden, stored in the communal garden, or discarded. When your garden contains the right medley of mint and other tasty morsels, you can plant them in a pot ready to score at the end of the game.
Push your luck, sage style!
Following beat-your-own-score rules designed by Keith Matejka, the deck is divided into two so that you play solo with only half of the available cards (the remainder being ready to roll for a second helping!). But, using the same mechanic as per higher player games, you must still choose which card to keep, which one to bank, and which one to lose on each turn. Beware, however, that if the communal garden ever contains 5 cards, the entire garden is discarded, and all of those delicious herbs are consigned to the compost heap! On that basis, you will need to start making decisions early on about which herbs you are going target for each of your pots (noting that special herbs only score in the glass jar!).
This game is gorgeous to look at – the illustrations by Beth Sobel are seriously good enough to eat. And whilst it plays as a relaxing experience picking and potting herbs, there is a pinch of tension as you gamble between potting early to guarantee at least some points and waiting to see if the remaining cards reveal more of the deliciousness you desire.
The fact that only half the deck is ever in play does mean that some cards are never going to be available no matter how much menu planning you do, but this is a really pretty, filler that won’t spoil your appetite for the main gaming course later!
Blue v Red. Blue v Red. The question which has baffled many a gamer has an extremely simple solution; Both. Either. It doesn’t matter! Whichever you choose, this portable little roll and write is going to have you forgetting your fishfinger sandwiches as you sit there puzzling out the optimal way to connect roads and rails in your break time.
If you haven’t played Railroad Ink before, you are in for a tasty treat. Like a loaded lunchbox, this little box has dry wipe boards, pens, and dice spilling from its lid. The promise of finger licking frustrated fun slathered on every slice.
As a multiplayer solitaire game where everybody marks their boards simultaneously using identical die, solo mode is no different to when you have breaktime buddies. Rather than seeking to outpace their spaghetti connections, however, you will be against your hardest competitor; yourself!
Starting from network points on the edges of the board, on each roll of the die, you must connect all new sections of highway and railway to those already on your board. Extra points are available for sections passing through the centre square and any network points linked together with continuous paths.
Snacking on Strategy!
With only 7 rounds in the base game, you will need to strategise in order to make your roads and rails as long as possible. Each roll of the 4 base die can bring sweet satisfying stations but it can also crush your plans with bitter bends. And, as the game nears its end, with open ends and roads to nowhere, whatever you get you can guarantee it won’t be what you need!
If that wasn’t enough tension to tickle your tastebuds, each game also contains a set expansion die: meteors and lava in the Blazing Red edition (which wreak havoc with your network but can give back a little love if you play them right) and rivers and lakes (which can rush through your routes but also connect land and sea like no other) in the Deep Blue box.
Ultimately, whether you’re a full on food truck hot tamale kinda player, or you like a cooling cucumber sandwich, there is a Railroad Ink out there for you.
[NB: there are also two new Challenge Editions – Lush Green and Shining Yellow – coming to retail later this year and so stay tuned for my review coming soon!]
Ok, so we have tasted some set collection, nibbled on some roll and write, and now we are about to chow down on a game that is going to get your spatial synapses firing.
Another multiplayer turned beat-your-own-score solo, this is a strategy game coated in crunch.
With only a small 4x4 grid to play with, you are tasked with building as many point scoring properties as possible using resources matching those set out on a selection of 7 randomly chosen edifices. With the available real estate ever shrinking, Tiny Towns is an exercise in perfect planning.
And, whereas the multiplayer mode would have opponents selecting resources on their turns to add the frisson of frustration, the single player mode doesn’t leave you bland. Using a special set of solo cards, your choice of resources is limited to one of three each turn, shredding your carefully planned strategy like a fridge fresh iceberg lettuce.
Not only that, should your midday mind need an extra hit, you can add another slice of monument challenges to give more bite to your box!
Under the colourful, tempting wrapper, Tiny Towns is an abstract strategy game which has great replayability in solo (and multiplayer) mode thanks to the variety of building cards and the random luck of the draw in play.
Although this game needs a little more table space than the others and a full automa over beat-you-own-score would elevate it from home cooking to haute cuisine, it is nevertheless a fun puzzle and a great choice for a McSession in playing under 30 minutes. With two expansions also available (Fortunes and Villagers), Tiny Towns is set to keep apace with your ever growing appetite!
And there you have it. 3 ways in which you can make your lunchtime game-time. Guaranteed, once you taste those sweet midday puzzle pastries, you'll be counting down the hours until you can pick another delight from the Smorgasboard.