Monday, March 14, 2016

Solo Review - Hostage Negotiator (2015) - Van Ryder Games

I'm going to take a break from our regularly scheduled throttling from my son and play a solo game. I will try not lose this one....but no guarantees. 

The Blurb

In Hostage Negotiator, you play the part of a law enforcement agent responsible for negotiating the release of hostages taken by an unscrupulous figure hell-bent on having his or her demands met.

Each turn in the game represents a conversation between you and the hostage taker. You'll play cards and roll dice to increase conversation points, decrease the threat level, and release hostages. Hostage Negotiator uses a unique "hand-building" mechanism that puts cards you purchase directly in your hand for next turn rather than leaving you wondering when the cards will show up like in deck-building games.

In Hostage Negotiator there are multiple paths to victory, but the hostage taker has other plans. Will you try to calm him and get him to surrender? Will you stall and bide your time before sending in the team for a major extraction? How many hostages will you save? These are many of the exciting decisions you will make in a game of Hostage Negotiator!

The Gist

Meeples are being held hostage and you need to save them.  Don't Panic! Okay, panic a little, because time is running out!

The Play

Okay, I was all set up for the play. I always try to get the demands out of the way first, and I did successfully. Things were going well at the first terror phase - he even released a hostage! The next few rounds went relatively smoothly, but not much movement one way or another.  I did manage to calm him down a little.

Round 5 came and I decided I needed to start moving.  I bought the Bold Lie card, which if you roll two shields, gives you a -3 on the Heat Tracker and would get 3 hostages released. I also bought both Reroll Cards which I can play to reroll any one die.  My gamble paid off, and I was able to get the two shields! I freed some more hostages, and I had one hostage left in the hostage pool and pulled the card to add hostages.  Ugh, okay.  I rolled to add one.  Not bad.

In the end, I was able to release all eight hostages within the next two turns, because the terrorist kept asking for demands that I did not concede to. DAD WINS!  And as an added bonus, I saved an extra hostage!

The Bits

What I really like are the dice. I think it's the perfect mechanic for a game like this, because it make the dice rolls tense. You could think you have the perfect plan all set up and then roll poorly, have the terrorist hang up the phone, or have a card mess up your whole strategy.

The Good, The Bad, The Rating

This gam--

Okay, so I was writing up this review, and Tyler says "I want to try this game." Never to discourage him from playing, I went over the rules with him and sat and watched him play.

And man, did it go bad early.  Hostage escape attempt on the first terror card, dead. Second terror card, dead. Third terror card, dead. I explained to Tyler that he had to save at least 4 hostages before he could try to eliminate the terrorist, and that the next terror card could end the game. He bought one reroll, and saved the other 5 points. He drew the Time is Running Out card from the terror deck, and tossed half of the terror deck.

He had some bad rolls, but got enough points to buy the All Units card, which if two shields are rolled, would save four hostages and eliminate the terrorist. Also, just in case, he bought one more reroll. He tells me to flip the terror card. +2 which brings the Tracker to 6, but does not take him down to 1 die, thankfully.

He plays the all units card and rolls a shield and a two, not enough. He plays the reroll card and rolls a 4. he pays the two cards. GAME OVER. WIN. It was stressful to watch, because it looked like for sure he was going to lose badly, but even in a solo game, he manages to pull off a crazy win!

The Good, The Bad, The Rating


I have played several solo games, and my main problem has always been that they don't feel like an experience, they just feel like a game that has an adapted solo mode. I never feel like I'm in the moment or invested. This game covers all of that and then some. And it's a quick play. Something I can play when no one is available.



The dice are great. The shield is my favorite. I have never played a one-player game, and I like having a game I can play by myself. The demand cards seem like they don't get used often unless you're in trouble. It has high replay value because there are a bunch of different scenarios (my Dad has all the Abductor Packs).


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