Century: Spice Road is just a stellar game. Most important, Wifeberg just loves it. As much as I’ve had years of fun with Splendor, now I see why everyone says this replaces it. (Part of why is because I played Splendor for so many years.) Recently I have learned the joy of playing games solo. Scythe comes to mind, it has a first-rate Automa opponent that lays clear just how little I know about the game.
But I also have a soft spot for fan-made expansions. Ticket to Ride: Emerald City being my hands-down favorite. I’ve been enjoying a simple-to-play, yet fairly challenging fan-made solo mode for Instabul: The Dice Game, so when I saw someone made a solo mode for Century: Spice Road, I resolved to play it.
While the next paragraph talks about some positives, let’s get this out of the way: these rules aren’t very good. The opponent hobbles itself by constantly using its cube supply to buy market cards, all game. Its next turn is always obvious. In our one and only bout I creamed it by an outrageous margin. It would have been a total blowout had it not managed to grab a single point card simply because of the good luck of the card turning up just as it had the cubes to purchase it. I’ll never play those rules again.
So what do I like about it? Well, go back to the post on BoardGameGeek. There’s a community of users there, that are providing their own feedback on how they might adjust the AI, trying to make it better. Even I gave my own thoughts on the matter, with a derivative I haven’t actually played despite my promises. But people are trying. So what’s good? The framework was interesting enough to generate discussion. And so now I keep thinking about how to tune the AI so it doesn’t just grab market cards, it grabs good market cards. And just like a human player, it should be part of the early competition to grab decent market cards (or rather, take them from other players) but during the late game not even waste its time on them, and focus on growing their little cube-shaped empire. And the next step should not be predetermined. One thing I learned from the AI opponents in Scythe and Istanbul: The Dice Game: the AI opponent doesn’t even have to play the same rules. It just needs to be tough competition.
These things are surmountable. I’m not about to draw up an Automa deck with a Phase I side and a Phase II side. Or am I? Such an interesting idea.