True to my word, I printed off a Warpspawn game, Culture and Conquest, advertised as one of his solitaire-friendly games.
It's a civilization-building game, and while it may not redefine the genre there's a great deal of interesting stuff here.
The rules are extremely short, so I'll summarize.
In a multiplayer game, the point is to have, at the end of fifty turns, the most advanced civilization--to have the most cultural advances, and to have built the most "wonders." You begin the game with a population of ten units, one city, and one randomly-selected starting advance. (In a solo game, you're basically trying to get points for constructing things, and beating your best score.)
Each turn, you first roll (1D6)-2 (min. 0) for a population increase, then you allocate your population among farmers, your army, your scholars (one per city, max), your traders, and your workers. No sector of society can grow or shrink by more than six per turn. You then roll a die to determine if your civilization gets a leader--leaders give you extra gold per turn, advantages in combat, etc.
Next, you harvest food. Each farmer grows 3 units of food. (Food can only be kept from turn to turn if you develop pottery.) Then you roll to see if there's a disaster; a 1 on 1D6 means you take a hit. (As you might expect, certain advances mitigate the disasters.)
Next comes upkeep. Every population unit eats a food; your army units eat a gold each. If you have a leader, roll 1D6 for each one; on a 1, the leader dies.
Then comes war. Verily: Dice. Each side rolls three D6; ones hit. Advances might give you extra dice. Keep going until one side or the other cries uncle or runs out of army men. The victor gets the loser's gold, a city, or 2D6 worth of the other guy's population. (There are rules for "NPC" armies for playing solo.)
Then comes trade. You can trade whatever you want, basically. Not so relevant for solo play, naturally.
Then you build. Each laborer produces one Labor Unit, which can be spent on new cities or Wonders, which aslo cost gold, which you get a little later.
Then the research phase. You roll 2D6 per scholar. If you roll a 2 or 12, you roll a D20 to determine your new Advancce.
Finally, you get income--1 Gold per trader you have, plus one per city. There are relevant advances and leaders, as always.
As you might imagine, there's a lot of die rolling going on here. The game isn't devoid of decisions; you have to "set" your population, for example; you also trade and negotiate and declare war. You can also decide which Wonder you're building. In a solo game, there's no trade, diplomacy, or war going on, so you're kind of watching things happen for the most part.
Not that I didn't find it interesting. I get kind of wrapped up in my civilization's progress, my heart breaking after I lost half my population in two turns, between an earthquake one turn and a huge flood the next. The pace of the game also accellerates nicely, as you accumulate advances, build cities, and whatnot. You don't need much besides the rules, two sides of a piece of paper, a pencil, and dice. It's the kind of thing I like to do in the airport to kill time if I don't have a book handy. If there were an internet application of it--and it'd be easy to do, really--I'd be all over it.
Random starting cultures I can understand; random leaders I understand; I certainly have no problem with random disasters. Random advances I'm of two minds on. I can see how, if you're playing Major Historical Forces, you might not have too much control over what your geniuses are up to on the small scale. On the other hand, from a gaming perspective it seems like the major point of a good Civ game is directing and tuning its development--which means choosing your advances. It'd be nice to have some way to at least influence what kind of advance you get--say, your Scholars get the one you want, but on a random timetable--you have to declare, once you get an advance, what your next one will be. Something like that.
I'd be curious to see how this one plays out multiplayer--particularly with the "map version" variant at the end of the rules, where you play with little guys on a map--that sounds like an actual, quality light civ game. Would it clock in under two hours, like everyone wants a Civ game to? Maybe not. Turns go quick--at least solo, with very few wars and no trading or diplomacy--but I'd guess that this is at least a 45 minutes/player thing here.
Definitely worth a look, though, and a fine addition to my stable of solo games.