With a global pandemic sweeping the world, it’s no surprise that people and publishers have turned to solo play as a way to stay sane in a time of limited contact with others. Reading the room, CGE released two solo modes for Adrenaline and Sanctum, completely free-of-charge and requiring no additional components. It’s likely that these modes were in testing before things locked down, but their release probably even more welcome during these times. Thank you, CGE. Pretty cool move.
A solo mode for a board game about playing a video game. If anything would make an outsider say, “Why don’t you just play a video game at that point?”, it’s Adrenaline: Solo Play DLC. But that outsider would be missing out on a fantastic way to play Adrenaline, an already fantastic game. So what’s the big deal?
Throw away those point tokens. Don’t need ‘em. This game has ditched its free-for-all play mode for a fight to stay alive against three droids bent on hunting you down. Your mission: kill each of them once before they kill you twice. It’s not a fair fight. But if it was, would it be any fun?
The powerup cards transform into orders being beamed down from the evil AI, with each bot acting in order after you take your turn. Tagback grenades and scopes deal buckets of damage and marks, while Newtons and teleporters mess with positioning. Running these programs wasn’t immediately intuitive for me. But after a few games, I now definitely know which ones deal more damage than marks, and which ones deal more marks than damage. I think.
After seeing the bots receive their assignments, you get to take a normal turn, just like the multiplayer game. This mode is even compatible with the Team Play DLC expansion, letting you take down automatons with your favorite custom character…just as long as they aren’t Sprog. Lizards never get to have any fun.
When the bots strike back, you already know where they are headed and what they’re packing, but this phase can still surprise you by how hard they hit. You get tossed around like a ragdoll with the Newton, and teleporters mean there’s no such thing as a safe room. How can you take down these unstoppable machines when they don’t even need ammo to deal damage? My first few games were a bloodbath. Then it clicked.
Once you’ve played a few times, you can start to see the matrix, the lines of codes that these murderous automatons obey to a fault. If you pay close attention, you might be capable of commenting yourself out of the program, ghosting your way past enemy fire into safe havens full of ammo and power-ups, only to emerge fully-loaded and ready to rock. No sunglasses or trench coat required.
But sometimes there’s no escape, just damage control after walking into a wall of withering gunfire. There’s no healing, no pause button, but you can buy some time by hacking into the ports each bot receives their instructions from. Damaging those spawn points can seed bugs into the programming, shutting down bots temporarily and damaging them slightly, hopefully giving you enough breathing room to compose yourself for future turns.
Those malfunctions don’t pop up immediately, so there’s an agonizing push-and-pull between gigs of direct damage now and bytes of disruption later. If you go in there guns blazing, you’ll probably get a facefull of retaliatory laser blasts from some adrenaline-riddled robots. If you take the hacking route, a death by a thousand cuts awaits you. Slow, fast, slow, fast. The metronome of this game is alive and you’d better pay attention to it.
The bots even get access to Adrenaline actions once they are damaged enough, meaning you have to be careful about leaving a bot alive when they are at their most lethal. Do you focus on one at a time, or try and damage them all evenly? What guns are available? What does the programming for the next turn look like? How on earth does that giant yellow ball keep finding me?!?
I’ve succeeded one time. I thought I was a goner. I had already died once, facing the second death shortly. But after some careful running and gunning, the bots shuddered to a stop at the last possible second. I had no ammo, no loaded weapons, no powerups, and no room for extra damage tokens. I finally let out a breath that I didn’t even know I was holding for the past turn.
Adrenaline: Solo Play DLC ditches the area control, the core element of the main game, and turns it into something just as compelling and engaging. When you’re by yourself, you can agonize about combos and critical hits all you want, making this mode a very satisfying puzzle to suss out. Next time you go to pick up a controller to play Enter the Gungeon again (guilty), maybe crack open Adrenaline instead. It’ll take just as long, and it’s definitely easier on your hands, that’s for sure.
To download the rules, head on over to CGE: https://czechgames.com/en/adrenaline-solo-play-dlc/