Solitaire games…. up until recently I viewed them as a necessary evil. Ok, well maybe not evil…. I just thought it took the whole fun away from being a game. Almost like “Solitaire games” was a paradox or something.
After all, for me, while a lot of the fun in a game is the mental challenge, and the building up of your wealth/resources/civilization/business, a significant part of the fun is the playing with actual people, face to face. It is a great way to connect with people, have fun together, unwind, etc.
That said, a solitaire game offers none of that people interaction. All you have left is the mental challenge, which while good, seemed to me that the game was missing something, like a body that has been decapitated. Take away people and you take away a large part of the fun.
However, after actually trying a solitaire game, I have come to a somewhat different (and more positive) conclusion. To be sure, playing a multi-player game is still preferred to a solitaire, but there is a lot of fun in just the mental challenges a good solitaire can pose.It’s not unlike working a puzzle or even, working with models (Something I certainly enjoy).
So, what changed my mind? A little solitaire, “Occupation of the Rhineland, 1936”. I had gotten a copy from Todd Sanders, who did the artwork for this little game.
Occupation of the Rhineland is a historical simulation game, meaning it attempts to recreate the scene in Europe during the rise of Nazi Germany. Specifically it emulates the international tensions between Germany and the rest of Europe during Germany’s occupation of the Rhineland (one of the major steps that lead to WWII). Of course, if you are familiar with world history at all, that you already figured that just by the title.
You play the French government as it seeks to respond to the sticky situation on your backdoor. Through diplomatic and occasionally military means, you seek to oust Germany from the Rhineland and avert WWII. Talk about a chance to rewrite history! Of course we know how the story goes, but it is fun to speculate how things could have been done differently.
The game is published by Minden Games, in the their “zip edition” line. Basically, the game is rules, a postcard game board, and a postcard of counters to cut out, all in a 6″x 11″ zip bag. You provide the dice, pencil, and paper.
While I am sure cost effectiveness for the company has more to do with the “zip edition”, I really do like that concept when it comes to buying games. It seems more…. sustainable, and frugal.
This game is primarily dice driven. After choosing what France’s stance towards Germany is (Balanced, Pro-Britain, Pro- League of Nations, or Leverage), you roll your way to victory….sort of. Depending what you choose, there are different outcomes for your rolls. You are trying to gain influence with Britain and the LoN to back your efforts to oust Germany. Your die rolls determine whether they align closer with you, or move farther away, or if Germany decided to strengthen its forces, or if the crisis deepens. While you can make some choices, you really are at the mercy of the dice.
Where you have choice is when you decide to issue an “ultimatum” to Germany- “Get out of the Rhineland, or else!” The more you have Britain and the LoN on your side, the more likely Germany will pack its bags and head home.
In a way, this game reminds me of Farkle. You are unlimited in how many times you can roll to improve your standing. The better you are, the more likely you can win in the final resolution of the game. However, the more you roll, the more chances you have of exacerbating an already tense diplomatic situation. So this is definitely a push your luck kind of game.
Really the most strategy that comes into play is calculating your odds and taking somewhat calculated risks. At the end of the day, your fate rests primarily on a little cube with printed dots. Some may like that, others may not.
As a strategy game, Occupation of the Rhineland falls somewhat short. The game has more in common with Farkle then say, Axis and Allies.
However, as an intro to the fun one can have with a solitaire game, this game does shine. While I felt that I had only a small amount of control over the progression of the game, it was a lot of fun, and had an enjoyable amount of tension.
Not only that, but it has definitely gotten me interested in looking into solitaire games. While they may not be as much of a game as their bigger, fuller counterparts, solitaires do have a place in your game closet. After all, when no one wants to play games, it is nice to have something to scratch that itch, particularly in mental challenges.
I guess solitaire games aren’t so bad after all.