Having struggled to play a solo game using the original base game of TIME of CRISIS I have since discovered that GMT have introduced an expansion pack that, apart from introducing a whole gamut of new components and rules also proposes an Artificial Intelligence system of non-player Faction rules; basically a way to play the game solo without resorting to playing guessing games with yourself as I previously did.
The Age of Iron and Rust: A Time of Crisis Expansion Price: $25.00
The six 4-value DAMNATIO MEMORIAE cards from the base set were considered by many to be unnecessarily complicated and imbalanced, and so with this expansion, GMT offer clarified replacement cards, keeping the same DAMNATIO MEMORIAE title. Simply remove the original six Blue 4 value cards from the game and supplant these in their place. Of course if you are happy with the way the game plays with the original cards then keep them in, it's your game and the aim of it is to fulfil 2-3 hours (per game) of your entertainment time.
IRON & RUST also welcomes a full set of 9 new types of Influence cards. These are to be used in any combination you like when added to the original Base game's 9 Influence card types, ensuring a much more agreeable deck-building mechanic and thus more options for all players.
OPTIONAL Rules abound for variable setups, beoming Emporers, types of Emporer - now the Military and other Factions are capable of greater single achievements, with special advantages and disadvantages for each Emporial style.
IRON & RUST continues with the Euro game flavour so as not to completely disrupt the base game's new genre of Euro-War game, but leans a little more heavily to restoring the aura and atmosphere of Ancient Rome as it began to crumble.
The single player game is now one human versus one to three A.I. Bots which have their own personal Game Boards on which wooden markers are used and moved to show the current situation of each opposing force; you have your own components as per the base game.
The Bots now give the opposing Emporers/would-be Emporers over you names and set up provinces. For ease of play it is also suggested that Maximinus Thrax - he of Military might - uses Red tokens; Gordian III is a friend to the people so has the Yellow populace pieces and Pupienus & Balbinus prefer the calming Blue of Senatorial ruling. They will start in Gallia, Macedonia and Syria; who starts where decided by how many are involved and perhaps somewhat randomly by the human player.
The expansion rules booklet is only 12 pages and includes a front cover, Historical notes which further describe and inform on the new Influence cards, and a smattering of illustrations throughout. There are a few examples of play but generally the player's game knowledge is expanded by the use of light blue highlighted notes and Design notes highlighted in beige. Most of your questions that will arise can be answered by these annotations.
In truth I still wasn't enamoured by TIME of CRISIS as a solo game. In my opinion it needs the random chatter around the table and the planning against opposition who are thinking for themselves. I am not implying that the GMT solitaire version of the rules doesn't work, it's just that I am a social gamer and with the influx of Euro-game mechanics TIME of CRISIS has become, for me at least, a social wargame.
From a collector's viewpoint I am not keen on having to remove the insert from the base game box to accommodate the expansion's components, but without removing the insert they simply do not fit, at least they may sit in the box but the lid won't close.
From playing TIME of CRISIS and AGE of IRON and RUST in single-player modes I can offer my opinion that I did not get anything in the way of hoped for satisfaction in either the base (solo) or the expansion (solo). I did pick up enough knowledge to realise that with three or four players the game would be far more enjoyable, as well as tense and thoughtful.
I should say that owning the expansion isn't a necessity, unless you want a more playable solo game, or you like to complete all parts for your collection (and not miss out on any of the new ideas, pieces and variations), and I can also understand why GMT promptly followed the base game with the expansion, and applaud them for seeing a couple of possible cracks and sealing over them quickly and efficiently, while adding additional history to this Social genre EuroWargame.