Last week, we did a review of Incoming Transmission, a space-themed cooperative game for 2-7 players which is fun game with a logic puzzle feel. The game works by having one player (Mission Control) give information to the other players who are trying to interpret said information (which is garbled in some way). I said in that review that there’s not really a way to have a solo mode in Incoming Transmission. And I was wrong! Let’s take a look at how we can play Incoming Transmission solo!
We said previously that “there’s too much implicit information” to do a Changing Perspectives idea for Incoming Transmission. But we were wrong!! The main idea of the Changing Perspectives idea is that the solo player simply changes roles in the game, and plays each role “pretending” not to know any information from the previous role. For example, in the case of Shipwreck Arcana (a game which readily embraces the Changing Perspectives solo idea), the solo player alternates between a clue-giver role and a clue-guesser role. In the clue-guesser mode, the solo player “forgets” everything the clue-giver knew! This is feasible because all the information needed for the clue-guesser is on the board! The state of the board is the ONLY information given to the clue-guesser! See below.
The key to this idea working is that there’s no critical implicit information: the clue-giver tries to deduce what to do based solely on the state of the board. In case there is a need to make a random decision, the clue-guesser rolls a die.
Incoming Transmission has a similar model to The Shipwreck Arcana. there’s two roles: Mission Control (the clue-giver) and the Cadet (the clue-guessers). And it turns out, all information that the clue-guesser needs is either (a) on the board or (b) in the cards.
The state of the board (see above) has the information the clue-guessers need: no more, no less. So, this Changing Perspectives idea can easily be applied!
Too Many Permutations?
The real reason I think I didn’t think this Changing Perspectives idea would work is just how many different permutations there are for the clue-guesser. Mission Control gives 5 cards (“the transmission”) to the Cadet and the Cadet has to arrange the cards in the proper sequence to execute “some plan”. Strictly speaking, that’s 5! = 120 possibilities! And later in the game, “the transmission” can be garbled further by the addition of a random card. That’s puts the possibilities to 6! = 720 outcomes!! Thinking about this, that just seems ridiculous to have to try as a solo gamer!
BUT what makes this idea possible is that only certain cards can be played at certain times! For example, you can’t move off the edge of the board, you can’t swap an item with another item.
If you have a “fix-it” card, you deduce that Mission Control “probably” wants you to fix a broken device or station. (At the start of the game, many of the locations are “broken” (on their red side)).
So, when you start arranging cards, there is only subset of permutations that are legal and a further subset of permutations that are logical. (“Why would you give us a fix and there’s nothing to fix? This must be a garbled card…”) Putting all this together, there are usually only a few permutations that make sense. Once the Cadet has the solution down to just a few, he can role a die to have the choice made.
Solo Rules for Incoming Transmission
To make it easier to enforce the idea of Changing Perspectives, we suggest putting the Mission Control and the Cadet on opposite sides of the table. When it’s time for the Mission Control to give a clue, the solo player moves to the Mission Control side of table and does everything Mission Control does normally. When it’s time for the Cadet to interpret the transmission, the solo player moves to the Cadet side. It’s not strictly necessary to change sides of the table, but we found it really helps to change perspective if you are “pretending” by physically switching sides.
Set-up Incoming Transmission normally, putting Mission Control on one side of the table and the Cadet on the opposite side of the table: Put all Mission Control cards (the mission cards and the transmissions cards) on the Mission Control side of the table. See above.
Set-up the Cadet so the station tiles face the Cadet (and away from Mission Control side). See below.
When it’s time to play, play proceeds normally with the solo player simply alternating sides of the table as he changes roles from Mission Control to the Cadet and back. In the Cadet role the Cadet is ONLY allowed to use information available on the board to make a decision! As a Cadet, if there’s multiple permutations of the cards that make sense, the Cadet must randomly chooses a permutation and move forward. The Cadet can assign value from 1-6 for each possibility and then roll a die.
This isn’t a great solo mode for playing Incoming Transmission, but it’s still pretty fun. It gives you a way to learn the game solo before teaching the game. It also is a nice little logic puzzle for a solo player. In my plays of this as a solo game, I don’t think the Cadet mode (the clue-guesser) ever had to choose between more than 4 different card arrangements, so the game never felt too random. It was a nice little puzzle.
HOWEVER, this solo mode is NOT for people who like to take wild swings at luck. Some Mission Control players really like to take wild swings with optimal transmissions that will win the game if the players choose right, but would give the Cadet waaaaay too many other arrangements that could fail miserably. It can become too hard to count “how many ways can we permute the cards?” and just make the game miserable. The game only works with this solo mode if the solo player is really trying to restrict the number of permutations. And that’s why it’s not a great solo mode, it tends to pigeon-hole the solo player into playing a certain way.