Cookiemonger and I had company on Saturday, and we played a round of Elder Sign, followed by a round of Betrayal at House on the Hill. It was my nth run of Elder Sign (I’ve lost track at this point) and my very first run of Betrayal, which does a few things I found interesting, despite lackluster implementation.

First of all, I noticed a couple new things about Elder Sign. Unlike Arkham Horror, it’s far better at accounting for a variable number of players. Because the Mythos phase occurs once every four turns, adding more players doesn’t much effect the difficulty of the game. Sure, cooperation is possible, and there’s more Sanity/Stamina to be lost…

…But there are also fewer trophies to go around, and it’s easier for players to not get the cards they need, simply because someone else got them first. Locking the dice becomes increasingly dangerous when you throw in multiple spells to “hold” dice for investigations, unless the group is really good at coordinating their adventures.

Betrayal at House on the Hill has some interesting problems. First, I noticed its character cards are simply too unwieldy. That’s the very first thing I would throw out. The four sliders fixed to the sides of the cards make accurate skill accounting more trouble than it’s worth. For a competitive game, the bad pieces make cheating easy.

Now, I can see a lot of imagination went into Betrayal, but it still needs a lot of work. I really like the idea of the characters exploring the locations together, discovering events, objects, and omens together, and I like the archetypal nature of the omens and how they’re used in the Haunts. The game’s mechanics, though…

Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One made me realize something about games that I should have already been aware of, and the reverse of a statement that I already knew to be true. I’ve long believed that every game should be balanced for multiplayer, whether it has multiplayer or not. Every game should be balanced for solo play, as well.

I don’t care if board games are primarily intended for two to six players. They should also be playable by a single player in some capacity, and this should be implemented at the basic level. Even if the game doesn’t ship with single player rules. Even if the ideal setup requires at least two players. You need to have something.

R&C: All 4 One is designed primarily for multiplayer, but it has a passable solo-play experience. It doesn’t have anywhere near the “depth” you might look for in a single-player campaign, but it still works and brings a minimum standard of fun to the table. Elder Sign works as a single-player game, even if it lacks the social element.

Something to chew on.