Tuesday, March 29, 2016

BattleSworn solo

BattleSworn by Ganesha Games (the ones producing Song of Blades and Heroes and other games in the range) was always a game that tickled my imagination. It has a great mechanics since players bid for their actions, which is really innovative in wargaming world.
But as the game was not playable solo, I stayed away from it.
Recently, Ganesha published BattleSworn supplement Knights and Knaves that included solo rules for the game, so I rushed to buy both books.

After reading the solo rules, I had to say that idea behind them is good, and it really seemed to me that I will add BattleSworn to the list of my favorite rules.

 So, I took out my orcs, made a human warband to serve as enemy, and started playing.
Unfortunately, I soon understood that solo rules for BattleSworn will not be my cup of tea. I found myself battling not against imaginary opponent, but against statistical odds. My formal education in this field didn't help. Actually, if one plays statistically correct, one can almost always predict AI moves. This gave me slow, but steady advantage, and after 10 bids (something that should represent a length of typical battle)  I managed to keep AI almost unable to move, kill two of his soldiers while keeping my forces out of harm's way.
It was obvious to me that even if I played 20 or 30 bids nothing much would change. I would kill enemies one by one, while AI would not be able to move rest of his forces from the starting line. So, I ended the game there.

So, the verdict: BattleSworn seems like the really good game. Against live opponent, able to make some surprising decisions, it should be a fun experience. But it is just not meant to be played solo. It is not even question of better solo rules - the ones presented in Knights and Knives are as good as they can get. ButtleSworn simply isn't solo friendly.

I do hope to play it against some of my friends these days.


  1. Thanks for your honest and specific comments. As a 100% solo gamer! I'm always looking for good sets of solo rules. Sounds like this will be a "pass" for me.

    Out of curiosity, do you see any way to fix the problem that led to the predictability of the AI?



  2. Making a bidding game solo is probably one of the hardest problems out there. Ironically, some reviews of Battlesworn with players on both sides talk about the predictability of some players (although maybe not to this extent), and the conclusions of some of those reviewers is that it seems like bidding is simply not some players' cup of tea.

    I am more determined than ever now to try out the solo rules!

  3. Couldn't you just roll a die for each bid?
    It would be situation independent, but unpredictable.

  4. Yes, Battlesworn is a fun game (indeed, I've just painted a new warband for it), but difficult to play solo. I have looked at the AI in Knights and Knaves, and just wondered how long it would take to navigate the various conditions in the tables. I may have to try it sometime, although there's something to be said for playing the opponent as fairly as possible, then rolling *two* dice for their bid (after I choose mine) and selecting the one that I, as a sensible, neutral player, would have chosen.

  5. @JJ - I think that there is very little you can do about solo engine. Idea behind the one in K&K is good, but...

    @Dale Hurtt - Please let me know your opinion. As I mentioned, I might not be the right person to judge the rules having in mind that I am statistical process control engineer by education earning his living as - Pe-ra-pa-pam - statistical process control engineer :) So, my mind may be too professionally deformed, and maybe I see things people form other fields of work will not notice immediately.

  6. Thank you for the review and your thoughts. IMO bidding mechanics, regardless of game, are not very solo friendly, not because of any inherent flaw, but because they form a game within the game that takes the solo player out of the simulation. Not sure I like that in a two player game so I may not be the best judge : )

  7. Thanks for the review & trying it out.

    The solo bidding system (for initiative) is meant to make the AI try to win the bids towards the end of the game, though over the course of 10 rounds, it should throw up a bit of variation with some surprise.

    It sounds like there was a lot of low bidding in your game, probably with lots of ties bids at the end where both sides were trying to win initiative? This is not so much a problem with the AI, but happens against real opponents that the AI is trying to mimic :) I've had games against real opponents where where you could get 3, 4 or more tied bids in 10 rounds. This is where using the escalation rule will open the game up. So it might be worthwhile trying it with that rule in conjunction with the AI.

    Games against the AI also work well where the AI is a defender with a few shooty types, and the player needs to get an objective in the AI's deployment area.