Like many, I grew up playing games with my family. Rummy 500 was my family’s bread and butter, but many other games crossed our table over the years. Games were a social activity; a way to bond and spend time together. When I got into the hobbyist side of games almost 10 years ago, I scoffed at the notion of playing games solo. Why would I want to do that? I have plenty of solitary activities I can do. Besides, playing a board game by yourself seemed kind of sad. Sure, I gave the original Thunderstone solo mode a try. Once. It was cool enough, but nothing I ever pursued past that initial curiosity. I borrowed Friday from a friend and was over it after one play. I even toyed with Lord of the Rings: The Card Game when it first came out, but quickly traded it away after a solo play. I was certain solo gaming was not for me. Games were to be played with others. I held onto the social aspect of gaming for a long time. Then Arkham Horror: The Card Game came out.
As I general rule, I didn’t used to like Fantasy Flight’s games. They were overly complex and full of conflict that offended my Eurogamer sensibilities. I don’t know what happened, nor when, but recent FFG releases started to make me turn away from my precious cube-pushing and look toward theme and dice. Cue “distracted guy” meme. I started picking up a few FFG titles and wondered about their latest release: Arkham Horror: The Card Game. I’d played the board game a couple of times, but never really liked it. I don’t even particularly like the Lovecraft mythos, yet something about this new LCG intrigued me. So, I bought it, expecting to get rid of it after my curiosity was satisfied. Like Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, I didn’t have anyone to regularly play the co-op mode with. Solo was my only option.
I played it. I loved it. I built a deck. I never build decks! The narratives woven throughout the campaign were fantastic and the use of the cards to setup a particular scenario blew my mind. I tore through each new mythos pack with the excitement of Christmas morning. I didn’t even want to play with anyone else. I could take this at my own pace and experience the game however I wanted. I admit, I broke some rules. Sometimes unintentionally. Sometimes intentionally. This was my party though and I could cheat if I wanted to.
I discovered a new kind of freedom with Arkham Horror: The Card Game and not just because I could finagle a few token pulls to my advantage. I realized I was enjoying playing solo as much as with others. It was a different kind of fun, but it was still fun. I learned that playing solo was providing me opportunities to experience games I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. I started looking at games with different eyes. That one game my group would never want to play? I could play it by myself. Those times I feel like playing a game, but don’t have a buddy? I could grab something off the shelf anyway. New game that needs to be learned for game night? Play the solo variant. This opened up a whole new world of possibilities and my shelves started to feel it.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve bought more games just for solo play. I grabbed Robinson Crusoe and Hostage Negotiator. I jumped at the release of Legacy of Dragonholt, Graphic Novel Adventures, and Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger. I backed The 7th Continent and Escape the Dark Castle. I’ve been tearing through Dungeon Degenerate every weekend and am getting ready to break out Renegade.
Ironically, this solo revolution of mine has ended up with me having more games in my solo queue than in my group one. I’m having a harder time getting to the table by myself than with others. It’s a wonderful problem to have. And I certainly don’t think solo gaming is sad anymore.