There’s been a fair bit of buzz around The Captain is Dead ever since it appeared on Kickstarter, and even more once those Kickstarter rewards started getting mailed out. We’ve managed to get our hands on it for ourselves, so you can feel free to check out our review here. At this point, though, we’d like to answer the second question everyone seems to be asking (aside from “Is it good?”, to which we say “Sorry, no time to answer, too busy playing The Captain is Dead”):
Can you play it solo?
(*Quick update – The Captain Is Dead is now available for order at the Gamecrafter!*)
I enjoy playing board games solo. It’s not a requirement, and I have plenty of fun when I’m with friends, but sometimes I’ll want to play something and nobody’s around or interested. So I look for games that can be played with only one player. Some will proudly announce they support solitaire play on the box, others might have solo rules hidden away in the manual or publisher’s website, but I’ve found that there are still lots of games that don’t have any such indications but are still perfectly playable (and enjoyable) with only myself at the wheel.
So the big question here is, how does The Captain is Dead work as a solo game?
But first, some background. There’s been a lot of excitement around The Captain is Dead lately, and with good reason – from its concept to its execution, its a game that’s sort of every sci-fi fan’s dream come true. The key premise is that all the players control different characters on a starship just moments after the captain has died. The ship is a mess, hostile vessels are approaching, unfriendly aliens are beaming aboard, and the various systems are failing. If they don’t work together to get the Jump Core working – and consequently make space tracks – then all is lost.
Now it should be understood that The Captain is Dead has been designed first and foremost as a cooperative game for two to seven players. It’s been based around the idea of having multiple characters run around the ship, desperately trying to put out metaphorical (and literal) fires so they can stave off certain death for just a bit longer. You can certainly try playing with only one character, but I wouldn’t recommend it. In fact, I’m not entirely convinced it’s possible to succeed with only one character unless you play on one of the lowest difficulties and get incredibly lucky.
The thing is, it won’t work well with one character. It works great with several. All you, as the lone player, have to do is manage 2+ crew members yourself – which is a lot easier than it sounds.
It works because, similar to games like Elder Sign and Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game, there’s absolutely no hidden information. In a regular multiple-player game everyone has to work together, so there’s no keeping strategies to yourself or hoarding important cards. If you all can’t function as a team you’re all going to die horribly. Even if you do function as a team you’e probably going to die horribly but that’s beside the point.
Playing The Captain is Dead by myself was just as easy as playing either of those previous examples on my own, too. I just took turns controlling each character and tried to make the best use I could of each one’s unique skills. I’d recommend using more characters rather than less, though. This is the type of game that gets exponentially harder the smaller your team is. Even two is pushing it.
Whether or not you’ll enjoy getting utterly decimated by a masochistic game that seems to know when and how to best mess with you (seriously, if I didn’t know better I’d swear it was actually out to get me) is a matter of personal taste. However, if you’re curious to know if The Captain is Dead works for solo play, the answer is “Yes.” And if you want to know how well it works with just one player, the answer is “Very, very well.”
Good luck out there, cadets. You’re going to need it.