Given my rural retirement, I have a renewed interest in solo games. So I’ve arranged those already in my collection (including the amazingly good Aliens board game from Leading Edge) together on one shelf. And I’ve joined a couple of “solo gamer” Facebook pages.

One title often recommended on those pages is Four Against Darkness. Having played it now for myself, I agree: It’s a hoot!

How to describe it. To me it feels like a boiled down version of the original D&D character rules, married to a sleeker version of “Appendix A: Random Dungeon Generation” from the AD&D 2nd Ed. Game Master’s Guide, but all using just six-sided dice. Character stats are nowhere near as personalized as in those old D&D rules, nor are the random dungeon rules as broad as that AD&D appendix, but its streamlined approach is part of why it works so well. Four Against Darkness feels like a souped-up board game. A well-designed souped-up fantasy adventure board game that allows for old-school GM improvisation.

Let me put it this way: I just a moment ago finished telling my daughter Kate the story of how, having barely entered a dungeon, my wizard, elf, and thief fell prey to a medusa. But their dwarf friend heroically slew the medusa single-handedly, then battled his way back to the entrance, fighting monster after monster, and twice incurring curses from dark altars, in search of enough gold to hire a priest to break his friends’ spell. And how after stealthily returning to the chamber of stone victims, he and the hireling priest were surprised by a chaos lord. Facing the chaos lord alone, against all odds, the dwarf bought the priest enough time to unfreeze his friends. And even then, the group barely managed to survive.

I have not told “war stories” like that for the past 40 years. Today I couldn’t help myself.

Oh, and in the end the group stumbled out of the dungeon with only three gold pieces apiece. The hirling priest got four.

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