Friday, August 11, 2017

A disappointing trip back to Solo Tower Hack

Some years ago, when my PnP experiences tended to focus on super simple builds, I tried out a very simple dungeon crawl called Solo Tower Hack. All it took was one page, a pencil, a chart and a couple of dice.

Since I've been having fun with Roll and Write games, I decided to revisit it.

What I discovered is a game where you basically roll the dice and do what they tell you to do. The dice determine what's in each room, where the stairs are and how the fights go. Really, the only real virtues the game has is that it is beyond light on ink and, if you were playing it in a cubicle, you'd look like you were working on a spreadsheet as long as you hid the dice.

Other than the novelty of how minimal you can make fighting your way through a generic fantasy tower, Solo Tower Hack doesn't have much to say for itself.

Truth to tell, since then, I have played a much better one-page, dice driven dungeon crawl. Delve the Dice Game is a much better Roll and Write dungeon crawl in almost every way. 

I'm planning on doing a longer revisit of Delve but it's basically controlling an adventuring party via Yahtzee to fight different groups of monsters. You have actual choices and a lot more flavor.

I have played other one-sheet, PnP, Roll and Write solitaire games that have you basically go on an adventure. For such a crazy specific description, there are a number of them out there. Other ones that stuck in my head include the D6 Shooters and Utopia Engine. Delve stands out for by having a variety of adventures and embracing the pseudo D&D theme.

While neither solitaire or dungeon crawls are my thing, solitaire roll-and-write games are nice for me when I'm between groups and don't have a lot of down time. Delve does the trick well enough I'm really thinking about exploring how far it's come since I looked at it long ago.

Solo Tower Hack, on the other hand, is pretty much a time waster. If I had seen it in the early 80s, I'd probably would have spent some time playing it with a pad of graph paper. Frankly, it feels like something from the early 80s, something I'd have found in the back of a gaming magazine. The fact that it's from 2007 is kind of shocking.

With that in mind, I feel like Solo Tower Hack shows how much farther you can go with even free minimalist PnP. I don't just mean visually (the empty graph is clearly a choice) but mechanically. Above all else, it helps me appreciate other games.

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