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TOPIC: Playing With Yourself: What Do You Think of Solo Gaming

Playing With Yourself: What Do You Think of Solo Gaming 01 Jan 2018 08:29 #259954

Solo gaming, often scoffed at or mocked, seemingly is becoming more prevalent or at least more recognized among new game releases. Is it worth it? Is it fun? I think for any serious discussion of the topic we need to break down "solo gaming" into several different categories.

1. Learning by Solo Play:

I think this is the most understandable and reasonable form of solo gaming. If you are the person who provides the games or a person who presents games to your game group, I think this type of solo gaming is almost incumbent upon you especially for more complex and involved games. Usually this type of solo is not to game completion but just for a few turns to understand how the parts and systems explained in the rules come together. Of course not all explainers follow this practice but I'd rather learn a game from someone who does than from a "rule book" read any day.

2. Inability to Find Opponents Solo Gaming :

Our resident Thirsty Man fits into this category (although his overt misanthropy is also a factor). If you live in a location where there just aren't a lot of gamers or the types of games you like have a very limited appeal, getting to play them face to face can be almost impossible. The modern age of internet and social media makes this a bit less of a problem than in years past but it is still something of a problem. Traditionally, this applied to war gamers more than others. Rather than let that convoluted game about Napoleon's victory at Borodino languish on the shelf, set it up and work through both sides on your own.

3. Grandiose/Monster Solo Gaming :

Games where playing face to face are simply unfeasible due to the length, scope,physical size and time required by the game. Again these are mostly war games but can now be applied to many new games with long campaigns. In the war game world, solo play of this type of game is done, usually, via the Vassal program which provides an electronic version of the board with the ability to save the game at any point.


4. Solo Gaming by Design:

This refers to games originally designed to be played solo and I think to games that purport to be multiplayer but work better as a solo exercise. The latter being games where there is limited player interaction or co-op games where tightly interlocked play between players is required for success so that multiplayer games actually become alpha dog situations where one player is effectively making the decisions and the others are along for the ride.

As I might have inferred, I think category 1 is by far the most utilitarian form of solo gaming. I wouldn't call it fun any more than most prep work is fun but I do think it is most definitely worth it. Being confident and prepared in a game explanation is far less stressful for you, the explainer, and so much better for the learners. Learning the rules will always dim enthusiasm to play and the shorter/more accurate/clearer you are in explanation the better.

Soloing because you can't find opponents is what I assume was the most prevalent in the past and maybe still is. I have done this with many of my wargames with mixed results. I found it worked best for a system of games called Operational Combat Series or OCS. This is a system that requires forward thinking and careful planning so that each player's turn can take quite a while. So not only is it difficult to find somebody with the time/desire to play a game about the Japanese attack on Imphal during WW2, if you do find someone it might be something of an ordeal to play with them depending on their speed. I have, on occasion, found this type of solo gaming both fun and worth it but the games for which it is neither are legion. Particularly in card driven games, I have found it to be unworkable.

Playing monster games, and by this I mean games that can take 10 to 20 hours or more and have maps that are larger than any table you own, outside of a convention setting, must be done solo. Who has the space to leave such a game set up for the weeks it would take you to play face to face? Maybe, via Vassal, you could set up a regular group to play through such a game but it would be very very hard with the inevitable player drop out in month 6. So solo, via Vassal, is the way to go if you ever want to see what these games can offer. I played through the classic Devil's Cauldron this way and had a great deal of fun doing so. Now that game is a "chit activation" style game where you pull a marker from a cup and that indicates which side or part of a side will be able to move/fight on that turn. This is great because you can pull the chit, do that move, save the game, and come back with fresh eyes when you are ready to continue playing the opposing side. Even here there is a certain level of split personality disorder required on your part as you try to make the best move for each side and not play favorites. Is it fun and worth it? I'd say not always but yes. That being said, playing such a game, or smaller scenario of such a game, against another person is far superior. Nothing wakes you up more than playing against somebody who does something unexpected or utilizes a rule in a way you'd never have thought of yourself.

Solo gaming by design is where most people outside of the war gaming sect find themselves playing alone. Now, if I'm to be honest, I find most games designed to be played solo to be dull as dirt. Witness most Dan Verssen "Field Commander" games. They are repetitive and weak. Solo games such as those made by Victory Games I also find super dull. Great themes, yes, but the game play is uninspiring. There are standouts and they are light years better than the rest. The two I often cite are Fields of Fire and D-day on Omaha Beach. Both of these are utterly immersive and tough as nails. Very much worth it and very very fun.

Solo games that bill themselves as multiplayer are ones such as Lord of the Rings Card Game, Mage Knight, and Pathfinder though that last can be debated. I often play these games solo. I find it can be fun attempting to beat the system as in LotR and Pathfinder or working to beat my own best score in Mage Knight. Frankly I don't know how well LotR would work with multiple players as the decks need to be built to compliment each other and often a non optimal play or non play of a card can sink the whole mission. That being said, I played Arkham Horror LCG, as similar a game to LotR as can be, with my wife as one investigator and I as the other and boy was it fun. Was that because the other player was my wife? No doubt it was a contributing factor. But I think the social interaction gave a whole lot more life to the game than I otherwise would have found.


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Playing With Youself: What Do You Think of Solo Gaming 01 Jan 2018 10:52 #259958

I'm all for it. I like games more than everyone else in the house and where they might like a nice hike or a trip to the mall or something, I want to play a game. I'm also awake about two hours before a lot of the house and solo gaming lets me do something fun (and quiet) while others slumber. Solo rules are a boon here. I've played ARKHAM HORROR, ELDRITCH HORROR, and ROBINSON CRUSOE solo most recently. Big beefy games with lots of little things to do. Not everyone is into this either.

I like games that are built for solo play, or have that in mind when designed. FIELDS OF FIRE was amazing (though not for me! Too accurate a simulation, I bowed out and traded it away when I couldn't send those boys to die). I enjoyed PHANTOM LEADER and I am getting ready for the AH:TCG campaign this year. Some games just have it bolted on, and these don't always end up great. Curious to see how TERRAFORMING MARS works in Solo play.
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Playing With Youself: What Do You Think of Solo Gaming 01 Jan 2018 11:00 #259959

In general I would much prefer a video game to a solo board game, but on occasion it can be good. Not counting running through something to digest the rules, these are games I have enjoyed solo:

Space Hulk Death Angel
Mage Knight
Massive Darkness

Normally, the act of setting up a game will be enough to dissuade me from bothering by myself.
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Playing With Youself: What Do You Think of Solo Gaming 01 Jan 2018 14:36 #259966

hotseatgames wrote:
In general I would much prefer a video game to a solo board game, but on occasion it can be good.

Same. The only game I've *really* enjoyed solo is Arkham Horror, and that was partly because of the detailed narrative, partly because it takes forever with multiple players and partly because I soloed it when I had a young kid in the house and I was getting to play nothing else at all. I don't quite understand why someone would go to all that effort to set stuff up, move it around, put it away all for themselves when you could just turn on a computer.

That said, there are a couple of games I might take for a solo spin in the near future. Robinson Crusoe because it's great and I don't get to play it enough and Imperial Assault because I want to try out the co-op app and no-one else will try it with me.
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Playing With Youself: What Do You Think of Solo Gaming 01 Jan 2018 14:44 #259967

Aside from going through a few rounds to learn the rules, I’ve decided that video games are better. Reading a book would be even better than that, but ... little steps.
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Playing With Youself: What Do You Think of Solo Gaming 01 Jan 2018 15:30 #259969

I prefer social gaming, but solo gaming is nice at times.

I play many of my AH and C&C games on Vassal so I don't have to set anything up.

Satan gifted me Fields of Fire, and I am excited to dive in.

I also will solo a game before introducing it to my friends. It makes for smoother teaching.
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Playing With Youself: What Do You Think of Solo Gaming 01 Jan 2018 15:45 #259971

Playing a solo board game in video game format is the zen of zen activities for me. I think it’s cuz as a young boy I’d solo board games all the time.

Jake is right that it’s a much more interesting and effective way of learning the rules too
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Playing With Youself: What Do You Think of Solo Gaming 01 Jan 2018 16:29 #259974

Good post, Repo, definitely front page material. All three of your items apply to me. Wargame stuff that isn't super interactive works solo, for me. Especially chit pull or uncertain turn order games, which provide uncertainty enough that knowing what the other player is thinking isn't the end of the world.
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Playing With Yourself: What Do You Think of Solo Gaming 01 Jan 2018 19:36 #259977

I hate 90% of it but when I play co-op by taking turns with the wife it’s fun. I really like the roll and write games though.
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Playing With Yourself: What Do You Think of Solo Gaming 01 Jan 2018 19:49 #259980

Sorry to say this, but I consider solo gaming a bit like masturbation, in that it's enjoyable but not as good as when there is at least one other player around. And yet, I am have enjoyed many hours of solo gaming. My favorite solitaire games:

1. Death Angel - one of the best games in my collection. Death Angel sets up quickly, offers a serious challenge, and with all the expansions, offer a great deal of replay value.
2. Arkham Horror - Arkham often delivers a rich pseudo-narrative, though setup and take-down are a real hassle.
3. Room 25 - Like Death Angel, Room 25 sets up quickly, but it plays so fast that you are left wanting a bit more, usually leading to one or several additional plays.

Pretty much any co-op game works as solitaire, so I have also soloed some other good games. And I have soloed some other games that aren't intended for solitaire play. I've done it to familiarize myself with a new game, and also just to pass some time while I am doing laundry and ironing.
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Playing With Yourself: What Do You Think of Solo Gaming 01 Jan 2018 20:14 #259982

Elder Sign is a good solo game.
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Playing With Yourself: What Do You Think of Solo Gaming 02 Jan 2018 01:39 #259992

Tried it, and decided it's not for me. I'd rather fire up my laptop and play something. The setup, moving parts and clean up parts are just too lonely to be done alone.
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Playing With Yourself: What Do You Think of Solo Gaming 02 Jan 2018 02:17 #259994

Shellhead wrote:
Pretty much any co-op game works as solitaire

Yep. It's always baffled me as to why they don't just list the minimum player count as 1. Some of them are actually more fun solo than with other players (looking at you, Pandemic).
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Playing With Yourself: What Do You Think of Solo Gaming 02 Jan 2018 09:20 #260026

I haven't done much but I am going to try more this year. In general, when I want to play board games I want to play with others, and when I want to play solo, I want to play video games. (I don't like multiplayer video games.) But I've lately become a fan of many co-op games that solo well, so I thought I'd give it a try some more.
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Playing With Yourself: What Do You Think of Solo Gaming 02 Jan 2018 09:46 #260034

Another type of game that could work well as solitaire would be any game with low interaction. For example. the Firefly base game has little interaction between players, so I can play each player position as a separate solitaire game. Firefly also has a solo scenario, but I haven't tried it yet.
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