Last week, in the comedown from the Game ‘n Grill, I was seized by the urge to try Sentinels of the Multiverse solo. Stocking issues thwarted me. Then I realized that I had another avenue for solo play: the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, which I had on loan from the Carnage library. By design, it’s a cooperative card game in which players send their characters — which are represented by decks of cards — search locations — which are represented by decks of cards — to flush out villains and henchmen — which form parts of decks of cards — likely encountering monsters and barriers, scoring loot and making allies — which form other parts of decks of cards. And this must be accomplished within a certain number of turns — which are represented by a deck of cards.
So you can imagine there’s a fair bit of deck creation and shuffling when you sit down to play.
The rulebook recommends choosing Merisiel the rogue for a solo character. It also recommends a solitaire player control multiple characters, but I have enough difficulty keeping one character’s abilities and hand straight. There’s no sense in putting myself in the position of mixing up hands of cards. So I stuck with Merisiel, who has a buff ability that relies on being the only hero in a location, and can evade encounters at will. That evasion ability means that with one hero covering three locations, it’s usually better to search until you find a henchman, and then move on to a new location, whether you close the first or not. If you know the villain isn’t there, move on. When you finally encounter the villain, they’ll flee, but you can attempt to close the location. Wherever the villain goes next, there will be fewer cards with negative consequences to face.
Merisiel’s ability to evade encounters is a huge benefit. Early in the game, when there’s time to spare, you can afford to skip anything that isn’t a boon until you flush out the villain or their henchlings. Chronic evasion also means that a lot of your turns are turning over two cards, blessing and location, shuffling the location deck and moving on to the next turn.
Solitaire play is honestly kinda dull. There’s none of the coordination of characters that you can enjoy with additional players. With Merisiel, at least, the best choice during a turn is often avoidance, until she can build up a stronger hand, if she’s short on an actual weapon. If the threats to characters were more dynamic — the world is succumbing to disease, the building is burning down — avoidance would be a far less attractive option.
I could dig playing this solo if there weren’t quite so much deck preparation beforehand. It’s truly a task where many hands make light work. And if you’re on your own, you might start the game feeling like you just played a brisk round of Dominion. The absence of more dynamic action during the game, like you would find in a Pandemic or Sentinels of the Multiverse, makes the solitaire version, lacking the social element of other players, mostly an exercise in shuffling stacks of cards, waiting to find something useful or the villain of the scenario.
 And one trick I just thought of, but didn’t employ is to recharge an undesirable card during an encounter for the bonus die, just to potentially improve Merisiel’s hand for the next turn.