The RPS Advent Calendar – Dec 2nd: Regency Solitaire

What is the best card game of 2015? The RPS Advent Calendar highlights our favourite games from throughout the year, and behind today’s door is…

Regency Solitaire!

Adam: I don’t hate puzzle games but puzzle games are indifferent to me, at best. They don’t cater to my needs. When I hear John and Pip talking about the latest brilliant mash-up of Sudoku, Picross and Nine Men’s Morris that’s keeping them glued to their monitors or hand-held SmartScreens, I zone out. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I don’t understand.

It may be true that all games are about numbers and calculations in the end, and some of my favourites certainly are. Every action in every game of Civ either makes one set of numbers rise or another fall. Usually you’re trying to make bigger numbers – population sizes, income, research output – and there are different systems in play that give some figures influence over others. Crusader Kings II is doing something similar but its complexity, and the way in which many calculations are hidden behind flavour and theme, makes its human characters and their behaviour convincing.

Strip away the context for those numbers and I’d probably be as allergic to Civ and CK II as I am to advanced mathematics. It’s been this way since I was a kid. When my parents bought puzzle books to keep me occupied on long journeys, they knew that I’d be happiest with grid-based logic puzzles; what they may not have realised is that it was the stories around the deductive process that held my interest rather than the process itself.

And what does all of this have to do with 2015’s best card game, Regency Solitaire? Everything.

I first encountered the particular brand of Solitaire-based puzzles that Regency is built around when I played Fairway Solitaire on an iPad. It was, like the logic puzzles of old, a method to occupy myself on a long trip. I loved it, even though golf and gophers aren’t my favourite thematic flourishes. The power-ups and special card types made just enough of a challenge, and if the whole thing hadn’t fallen into a free-to-play sandtrap, it might have become a permanent fixture in my travel kit.

Regency Solitaire uses many of the same ideas but it’s setting is far more appealing. Part of that appeal relates to my love for the literature of the period and part of it relates to a desire for New Things in my Steam library. How often do we see Regency romance in games? Regency Solitaire leans heavily on the familiar aspects of the genre but nothing about it seems familiar in this context. In my library of installed games it’s sitting between a first-person haunted house apocalypse adventure and a mystery about a particle physicist’s super-tech.

Take away the Regency and leave me with the Solitaire and I’d be bored out of my mind. It’s not that the puzzles themselves aren’t appealing – I wouldn’t have completed the game twice if it were just a few snippets of text and some handsome backgrounds – it’s that I need something more. I need a theme and a reason to care other than a steadily elevating challenge or numbers that increase every time I click the right part of the screen. Regency Solitaire is a perfect marriage of puzzle and theme.

And, yes, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a puzzle game in possession of a good conceptual challenge, must be in want of a theme.

Pip: I am the opposite of Adam when it comes to the stories around puzzle games. It took me an embarrassingly long time to work out there was some kind of story – skeletons or a road trip or some kind of skeleton road trip? WHO EVEN KNOWS – framing Puzzle Quest when I played that on Xbox years ago. I just thought it was a match 3 game where the puzzle boards were inexplicably plonked in cities and there was a lot of dialogue for me to skip.

Zoo Keeper had just the right amount of plot for a match 3 game, by the way. God, I loved Zoo Keeper. I had to hide it so I stopped playing it. Same with Yoshi Touch And Go.

Where was I?

Oh yes. Usually I’m ambivalent about the settings for puzzle games. If they’re done well it’s nice to have them there as framing devices but generally it’s going to become background noise as I sink into a puzzle and start dealing in abstractions. Regency Solitaire was different.

Regency Solitaire has a lovely Jane Austen-adjacent plot and combines it with various configurations of a card solitaire board. The actual mechanics have a touch of Because Videogames – some of the cards are heaped on top of objects you must uncover, and somehow the revenue you make from playing cards alone when you are supposed to be on a family picnic is enough to kit out an entire fancy ballroom.

None of that matters, though. What matters is this is a genteel game (the world needs more for the genteel category, by the way) about finding true love and saving your brother. While playing rounds of lovely cards on your own for hours.

Go here for more of our picks for the best PC games of 2015.

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35 Comments

  1. raiders says:

    A Solitaire game? Really? I believe Duel of Champions is much better.

  2. Zankman says:

    1. A solitaire game?

    2. Why is the name of the game in the title?

    3. A frickin’ solitaire game?!?

    • Premium User Badge

      X_kot says:

      One person’s sour quince log is another’s cherry cordial. Solitaire is a staple of computer gaming, in no small part thanks to Windows. Plus, this game’s inclusion in the calendar shouldn’t be surprising given the glowing coverage RPS posted in May (I remember because I bought it as a gift for a friend, who adores it).

    • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

      “Why is the name of the game in the title?”

      Seconded. Rather like taping the chocolate to the outside of the calendar.

      • Premium User Badge

        Bluerps says:

        I think Mr Walker explained that in a comment under yesterday’s calendar game.

        • Risingson says:

          Spoiler: “it was a CEO suicide”. More than fair enough.

          • Scurra says:

            Whilst I would perhaps not advocate CEO suicide publicly (although as I am anti-corporations in a moderate way, that would seem like a valid political philosophy), I think he wrote “SEO suicide” (presumably the means by which these articles turn up linked on Steam so often?)

  3. GernauMorat says:

    Ok.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    Not to harp on it, but I think the entire idea of an ‘advent calendar’ is that you don’t know what’s inside the box until you open it (yes, it’s chocolate, but WHAT chocolate). By putting the name of the game in the title, it’s like saying “this box contains a chocolate gnome” at which point you might as well just buy chocolate off the shelf.

    But: very cool pick!

  5. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    So, everyone that was running a book for what games would turn up in the advent calendar, where on the list was this then eh?

    • elderman says:

      I got nothin’.

      So what they’re saying is that this is a good game? A really, very good game? Huh.

      I like genteel, I like fiction set in the English Regency era… maybe I’ll check this out.

  6. Gothnak says:

    I bought this for my wife, i finished it a week later, she hasn’t played it. That is all..

    • int says:

      How ungrateful! I would marry you and play it.

      • Gothnak says:

        Thanks for the offer, but i am already taken, perhaps you can find someone who may take you up on your offer within this very comments thread.. ;)

  7. daphne says:

    I love the Advent Calendar, but I loved it more when the games were revealed after the jump.

  8. quietone says:

    That sounds and looks like the last game I would buy on earth. Which is exactly why I love it to be here.
    I like differnet points of view as much as I love new games.
    Keep it up!

  9. Risingson says:

    The games are revealed in the title because if not it was “a CEO suicide”. For the dozens of people that asked that before and the million that will complain later.

    And please write these kind of comments only after checking if it was covered before. When it’s something as obvious as this, you should know that.

    • Premium User Badge

      zapatapon says:

      You mean SEO. A CEO suicide would be rather extreme…

      Anyway, your berating tone is displeasing and I don’t see why you feel you owe everybody commenting on this issue a condescending slap on the wrist. No comments concerning this were offensive or out of line. If anything, John’s reply to this issue yesterday was certainly candid and honest, but felt a little cold, while precisely what appears from the comments is that some regulars would enjoy the little extra warm feeling inside, like pretending this has been prepared only for them. The number of comments on this point may be an important signal, and as much as I understand that RPS needs the pageviews to stay afloat, giving faithful readers an extra special feeling can sometimes be as important as SEO. Maybe RPS could go the extra mile of not giving out the game name in the title on a given day, then change the title on the next day…

      • Barberetti says:

        What’s SEO?

        • Premium User Badge

          DelrueOfDetroit says:

          Search engine optimization. If they don’t put the title in the headline it won’t show up for search results for that game and the RPS crew needs those hits to feed Horace.

          • Barberetti says:

            Ah right, thanks.

          • mukuste says:

            That’s definitely not true. Google is far, far more advanced than that and doesn’t rely solely on the title to give you search results.

  10. Penicillin says:

    Huh?

    This must be an early indication that 2015 really didn’t have that many notable games.

    • wu wei says:

      Have you played it? Do you get that enjoyment is a subjective experience?

      You must be a lot of fun at parties.

  11. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    I think you guys should go with titles that are a little more mysterious like:

    “You’ll never guess what game we picked for Day 2.”

    “John Walker played a game and then something amazing happened.”

    “Doctor’s HATE this game!”

    • guygodbois00 says:

      “John Walker played a game and then something amazing happened.” He did what, sir/madame? Actually finished it, perchance?

    • April March says:

      I was finding it strange that so many RPS journalists had had their first children in such a relatively short period of time, but now I realize they were just trying to qualify as This Local Dad.

  12. caff says:

    I’m glad to see this win an award even though I’ve never played the game. It’s from a developer (Grey Alien Games) who I once saw active on a programming forum (blitzbasic) – someone who grew from a small scale, inquisitive developer who interacted with fellow devs, who has clearly seen success and now awards from their efforts. Well done!

    This must happen a lot on forums like tigsource etc., but it’s nice to recognise people like that and see their eventual recognition :)

    • Person of Interest says:

      I felt the same way when Papers, Please got widespread recognition. Its developer had a nice presence on TIGSource, as you can see from all the friendly back-and-forth in his developer diary: link to forums.tigsource.com

      Like you say, I imagine it happens a lot, but it’s still fun to watch success stories unfold! :)

    • Jake Birkett says:

      Hi Caff! It’s nice you remembered me. I still pop into the Blitz forums from time to time, and I’m making another game in BlitzMax right now called Shadowhand. It’s funny that I spent 9 years making games without mainstream recognition but as soon as my wife joined in (Regency Solitaire was her idea) people outside of the casual market finally took notice :-)

  13. Premium User Badge

    cpt_freakout says:

    I don’t like solitaire but my partner does, so I bought this for her as a present and she absolutely loved it. She doesn’t play any videogames, and she was even talking about it to her friends, who are pretty much the same, and evidently thought she was being crazy. “Jane Austen Solitaire? Huh. So what else did you do on the weekend?”
    (Thanks RPS, this was a wonderful recommendation!)

  14. ffordesoon says:

    If you like puzzle games with narrative flavor on top, Adam, may I recommend the iOS game Highrise Heroes? IIRC, it’s one of those blessed iOS titles that operates on a shareware model – first chapter free, then you pay to unlock the rest of the game if you like it. It’s a Bookworm-style word puzzler which plays with that format in some very entertaining ways, and the story is a delightful bit of disaster-movie froth with a hilariously bonkers twist at the end which nevertheless works in the crazy world built over the course of the game (tonally, it is to The Towering Inferno what Phoenix Wright is to Law & Order). There’s even an honest-to-gosh moral choice at the end. It’s a terrific and woefully underappreciated game that I wholeheartedly recommend.

  15. DigitalSignalX says:

    I got this for my mother, who’s only gaming experience is windows 7 solitaire (41% win record o.O) and she still plays it, over and over. The music and the art are charming, but it’s sad that it essentially exists in a vacuum, there’s no other game out there that I can find.