I don‘t often write about house rules or variants. Mostly because I rarely have much need for them. There are enough games on my shelf or new ones coming out that it doesn‘t seem worth the effort. I also don‘t often have the flexibility to dedicate an undefined amount of time to something that a game I own wasn‘t designed to provide in the first place.
Now, that I‘m staying at home I‘ve found myself looking at my games shelf and noticing a lack of single player variants or cooperative rules in many of the games I own. Since my son is not particularly interested in playing competitive games against me, I‘m mostly trying to turn the games I own into solo player or two-player cooperative games. Some of my ad-hoc attempts have been somewhat successful, and some less so.
I‘ve come up with a variant for Robo Rally and Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas, which works reasonably well for us. If you happen to have either game in your collection and are looking for a way to play it differently, maybe give these a try?
Robo Rally (2 player co-op variant)
This one is fairly straight-forward. Set up a course as usual, but with only one robot on the board. I prefer to go with 4 stops on a single board, but if you would like a longer or more challenging track, you can increase the number of boards or stops, of course.
Deal five cards to both players. No re-draws if you only have a single type of card.
In this variant, your robot will have 7 programming slots, as opposed to the five in the regular game.
Players share programming duties and alternate in playing a card face-down into the programming queue. They may not talk about what they‘ve played, announcing only if they have played a movement or a turn.
When your robot takes damage, you don‘t reduce the number of cards you draw, but the number of cards you program. Each damage token randomizes one of the programming slots, starting with the last one. So three damage tokens means you only program the first four steps, and draw cards from the deck for the last three.
Since this is a race, count the number of programming turns it took for you to finish the course. With damage tokens serving as penalty markers. (Turns : Steps : Penalty)
My son enjoyed this variant for the chaos it led to when our robot happily bumped into walls, veered off-course or stopped in the middle of a some lasers.
Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas (solo variant)
In this variant you won‘t be using the Liber Fidelis cards, or the expansion cards and tiles. Pick a player color of your choice and a second color as the „ghost librarian“, who will collect books of their color alongside you. It will be your goal to finish your task before they do.
Platform placement is probably the biggest, and most convoluted part of this variant. If you don‘t want to bother with it, simply place them randomly. If you would prefer a more structured approach, that may or may not be less influenced by unintended bias try this one:
First, set up all books as per a four-player game. Then, arrange the (base game) platform tiles by size, starting with the five-spaces tile (L-shape) down to the two-spaces tile. Next, place one five-space tile under one of your books, followed by one five-space tile under the ghost librarian‘s book on the diagonally opposite part of the board. If possible, also turn that tile 90 or 180 degrees, before putting it down. Keep going around the board and along the row of tiles, placing a tile under your own book before placing the same type of tile under the ghost librarian‘s book on the opposite end of the board. Then repeat the same procedure for the remaining books. Once all books have a tile under them, place the remaining tiles as evenly in all four areas of the board as you can.
Cards are drawn and used as per usual. Take note of how many platforms you‘ve moved that have a book or a player token on it (yours or the ghost librarian).
After you‘ve done your turn, the ghost librarian moves. They will move exactly as many spaces as you have unplayed cards in your hand, as well as one additional space for each platform you‘ve moved that had a book or a player piece on it.
The ghost librarian always moves in a straight line, floating over the abyss. They do not skip spaces. They will pick up their books in a fixed order, starting with the one in the area of their starting spot and working their way counter-clockwise until they are back at the start. They will stop moving once they‘ve spent all their movement points or when they are in a straight line directly under their next book.
Whenever the ghost librarian picks up a book, the tile underneath it is also removed from the game (unless you‘re standing on it.) Whevever you pick up a book, remove an empty tile from the board.
The game ends when either you or the ghost librarian have picked up all their respective books.
That‘s basically it. There‘s a decent chance I will be writing down some more such variants in the next few weeks, depending on how quickly my son grows tired of playing the same game with me.