The Village Crone is an okay solitaire game. A game for one to six players from designer Anne-Marie De Witt and publisher Fireside Games, it presents a decent enough puzzle with enough variation to keep you from seeing many repeats, and the core idea of the game (you’re a witch and you get to cast spells in order to mess with the inhabitants of a small village) is interesting. But “decent” is about it.
You play the part of a witch in a colonial era-looking village, with the goal of completing mischievous (they’re more irksome and embarrassing than evil) schemes and otherwise messing with the villagers. Mechanically this means positioning your familiars (and sometimes the villagers) in order to meet different requirements or to gather spell components. Also spells. Spells play a big part and are vital when it comes to meeting all the criteria of a given scheme. Plus it’s just plain fun to create weird love triangles and turn people into frogs.
I do like a lot of The Village Crone’s elements. The board is made up of six modular tiles that can be mixed up and placed in a few different configurations. The various Scheme cards inevitably lead to a lot of enjoyably weird scenarios, as well as keeping things pleasantly chaotic. Gathering ingredients and then using them to cast spells (while making sure to say the proper incantations) is also interesting. Spells can also play off of each other in funny ways, which can have a pretty big effect on your strategies.
I also like the schemes, which can be as simple as getting two villagers to switch places or as complicated as turning specific people into frogs while also swapping familiars and getting someone to a particular building. These create some interesting conundrums when you’re trying to figure out how best to optimize your actions, and it can be pretty satisfying to complete multiple schemes at once. The problem is that all of this feels extremely muted when you’re playing solo.
A solitaire game of The Village Crone is sort of a race against the clock. In a normal game everyone’s trying to be the first Witch to 13 points and that’s it. In a solo game you have a very limited amount of resources, and if you can’t earn 13 points by the time two sources run dry you lose. I’ve seen similar approaches in other solitaire rules, but the issue here is that so much of the goofiness and general fun is reliant on other players.
When you play solo there’s no reason to speak the proper words to cast each spell because there are no other witches to call you out (thus causing the spell to fizzle) if you don’t. All of the chaos of the pieces constantly shifting around is nowhere to be found because there are no other players to throw a wrench into your plans. It also makes some spells completely pointless – such Binding, which will lock villagers and familiars in their current position, or Protection, which protects against a rival witch’s spell. Even Conjuring (summoning another familiar) seems silly when you have such a finite amount of ingredients.
The Village Crone is a somewhat simple, goofy, fun game. The only problem is you don’t really get to see most of that if you’re playing by yourself. If you’re going to be playing a lot of solitaire, I wouldn’t recommend it. On the other hand, if you’ve got a group of friends who don’t take their board games too seriously then you’ll probably want to give it a look.