Concordia Solitaria: Solo expansion review

Concordia Solitaria is an expansion for classic middle weight euro game Concordia. The original game was released at Essen in 2013 (and reviewed by me in 2014). At the time of writing, it sits in the board Game Geek Top 20 games of all time – and my own Top 10.

The original board game is a typical Mac Gerdts joint. Short, snappy but thinky turns; meaningful passive interaction; and a tight economy. But replacing his usual ‘rondel for actions’ is a small deck of cards, introducing a light deck-building element.

Since its release, Concordia has has a series of expansions. Most include new maps, while some also introduced new resources or concepts (such as Concordia Salsa). But this time, I can only presume inspired by covid, we’ve got a solo play expansion. For the record, this expansion also includes rules for playing with two people, plus the ‘dummy’ player. But in this review I will only be be reviewing the solo version of Concordia Solitaria.

What does Concordia Solitaria bring to the party?

In the small box you get four nice wooden dice and 72 cards. The dice and around half the cards are used for solo play. Nothing in the box is added to the game unless you’re using this expansion. (The rest of the cards are for the team play variant I’m not discussing here.) Setup lets you choose from three difficulty levels. Scoring is the same as normal, with the aim being to beat the new AI player (named Contrarius).

A new set of starting cards are provided that work largely as-were. But each card has an additional text box explaining what Contrarius will do after you take your action. True to his name, Contrarius will do something different to you. If you Mercator, they’ll build a house. If you build, they’ll take card etc. Contrarius has the usual set of houses and colonists, plus a score marker. But no money, board or resources. They also have a set of cards you can ‘Diplomat’ in the usual way, except once used they flip. So you can only use each of the cards once (including any collected during the game).

You also get a fresh set of 15 action cards, split into ‘l’ and ‘ll’ decks. These mirror the originals (again with the extra Contrarius action text box on them). Plus a couple of new crib cards explaining how Contrarius chooses where to move their colonists and build houses. The dice are used to randomise some of the Contrarius actions. For example, deciding which card slot he takes from, which kind of colonist he places, or the type of city they want to build in.

The four criteria

In a change to my normal reviews, I’m instead looking at areas in which solo board games tend to be judged – either favourably or not, depending on your tastes.

  • Elegance: For a euro game, Concordia has an effortlessly elegant design. But while Concordia Solitaria plays smoothly once you get going, it’s hardly elegant. The AI decision trees for where to place houses work really well. But, until you’re used to them, a bit fiddly and mathsy. To be honest, I quite enjoy the process as it helps build tension as you’re looking at where they’ll move to and place. And I’m not sure they could’ve achieved such a good overall result with a simpler system. So I think a few dropped elegance points have proven worth it in the long run.
  • Meaningful decisions: In the original, every action feels meaningful. And if anything this is ramped up in Concordia Solitaria. Because here, you often know the consequences of your actions. When you Senator, Consul or Mercator they’re going to build a house. And with Mercator, they’ll also produce in the region they build. Or when you Tribune, they’ll build a house for their best specialist (Contrarius gets a random Specialist card during setup). So you’ll know exactly where that’s going to be. This also means you’ll know when the game will end, so can try to ensure you get those crucial seven bonus points.
  • Replayability: I find Concordia to be an eminently replayable game. Especially as the random setup makes each game feel different. And this solo version only elevates this already high ceiling. I’ve played the solo version on several different maps, as well as with salt and with the forum tiles. And it works really well with all of them. For example, with the forum tiles, Contrarius takes the first one away each time you choose one – and scores points for each they have at the end. While the ability to make your opponent more difficult will also help keep things interesting for longer.
  • Theme, narrative & the ending: Contrarius doesn’t bring much personality to proceedings. But what it does do is nicely simulate the arc of a game of Concordia, which is one of the great things about the game. As the board starts to fill and cards start to run out, you get that same end game tension. So for me it nicely simulates the original, without taking it to another level. So a passing grade, but perhaps an opportunity missed.

Is Concordia Solitaria value for money?

It is for sale via board game comparison site Board Game Prices for around £20. This certainly isn’t an essential purchase. But if you like solo games, and enjoy Concordia, you’d be crazy not to take a good look at this. It certainly isn’t a bargain. But it does exactly what it says on the tin: makes a great euro game into an equally great solo experience.

… and does it fit in the original Concordia box?

Yup. Although I guess it depends what else you’ve already shoved in there! I’ve got all the bits from Salsa in there already though and this still squeezes in just fine.

* Thanks to PD Verlag for providing a reduced price copy for review.

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