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Subject: Can someone please explain to me the philosophy and the point behind solo board gaming? rss

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denny prijadi
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why would one need boardgame to socialize ?
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Luke Morris
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You could argue that half the Eurogames released nowadays are pretty much solo games. whistle
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Richard Ham
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The OP might as well ask "why do a crossword puzzle?" or "why do sudoku when there's videogames you can play and TV you can watch?"

Solo boardgames scratch the same itch, but much much better. They're fun mental exercise with the bonus of theme.
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Sicaria Occaeco
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SparkingConduit wrote:
They make sense for cooperative games, but I don't even see why they're viable for any other kind of game.


Why make an exception for cooperatives? They have all the 'pitfalls' you claim that other games have.
 
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A Warlock of
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Rigor Mortis wrote:
what keeps me interested in solo board games is the fact the mechanics are visible. It's an additional avenue of interest unavailable elsewhere.


Precisely. Even when I play video games, I prefer stuff like Civilization or Sim City. I just like putting stuff down and working out how it interacts.
 
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A Warlock of
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SparkingConduit wrote:
Since most games have to include random elements to make the choices at least partially interesting for a solo player, you can end up with a lot of silly situations. Like when I go to visit Hibb's Roadhouse as the orphan character (name forgotten) in Arkham Horror, it doesn't make any sense that my random encounter says I "pass out from drinking too much and enter the Dreamlands."


You're sure kids never drink? Even homeless orphan kids in possession of an eldritch artifact from beyond space?

SparkingConduit wrote:
Or, for a slightly less silly example, it doesn't make any sense that I, as Father Joseph in Last Night on Earth, wouldn't choose to equip the gun I just picked up because my faith is averse to it. Christianity doesn't say anything about zombies; by that point, I'd consider Hell to have descended and would have no problem with breaking my oath to God.


This may come as a shock, given your OP, but people think differently. You may be happy to start blastin' Zs, but maybe Father Joseph thinks differently to you. I mean, he's a priest in a world that has zombies, he's already way off from how I think.

SparkingConduit wrote:
Things like this may make "great stories" to some people, but to me, they just display the ineptitude of board game mechanics to handle true storytelling.


These aren't novels (or poems, or films etc). They're board games.

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Nate T.
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I enjoy both solo and F2F boardgaming, but do most of it solo these days and have fun with it. I think I may even prefer it at this point in my life. Playing solo has its benefits for me mainly because:

1) Time constraints. I may want to play a certain game, but don't have much time. Playing solo, I don't have to worry how long it takes.

2) Friend pool. I don't have that many people to play with and I have to sync up schedules with them to play. Not always convenient.
 
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Enrique Carro
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I can only explain my personal case. It refers to your second point, not having with whom to play. I work at a city (Segovia) 600 Kms distant from where I was born (La Coruña), so most of the time my only game partner is my wife. She never even imagined that she would ended up playing boardgames, but she does it because I love playing boardgames, God bless her.

Point is, she plays Le Havre, 7 Wonders, Dominion, and from time to time, Battlelore. I want other type of games, and I have to choose solo games because otherwise I'd had noone to play with.
So, Magic Realm, Runebound, Arkham Horror, Ghost Stories, ASL, are other games I own. In fact, when I bought Le Havre, I did it because it said that the number of players was 1 to 5, in case she didn't like it.

I love reading and watching movies, and from time to time I play videogames. In fact, right now I'm reading three books at the time. But the boardgame, the unboxing, the setup of those sometimes gorgeous components (I own a copy of WOTR CE), the world they grab you to... That's something I love, and thrive in, although I enjoy immensely playing against my loved one, even when she almost always wins. It's simply a different way to play, but a highly satisfying one.
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Matthew Roskam
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One quick point about video gaming vs. solo gaming- video games often 'hide' the math so well you can't really understand why something happens, or even what your best strategy would be. For example, if I have a 1 in 6 chance of something happening, but the computer (unknown to me) 'rolled a six', I might not realize how lucky I was. I personally play both board games and video games. But I love board gaming because I can get under the hood and deeply understand the how's and the whys of the design, and (hopefully) develop cleverer strategies as a result.

I will always choose social gaming over solitaire, however, whenever possible.
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A Warlock of
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SparkingConduit wrote:
Maybe it's just a mental block


I think this may be the problem. You seem to have approached this issue with a lot of preconceived notions that are getting in the way.


SparkingConduit wrote:
So that's the point of this post: to educate myself, to learn about the psyche of gamers who are different from myself, and to understand the reason behind the practice in the first place.


Cool.

SparkingConduit wrote:
- Board games are a social phenomenon. I may get some disagreement here, but you cannot argue that the purpose of practically every board game ever invented is to get two or more people playing by a set of rules toward a certain goal or objective.


This is simply not true. Most games I enjoy, or design myself, are an exercise in mechanics and theme. I'd argue that this is the primary motivator for most contemporary hobby games. I'd concede that the social aspect is the primary motivator for populist games.

SparkingConduit wrote:
- There are so many better alternatives. Some of the reasons I have heard for solo play are, "I can make my own world out of the game other people can't get into," "I don't have enough people to play with others," and "I like a good story." Of these, I can only accept the first excuse. Still, that probably indicates a lack of imagination more than anything else, as it would probably be way easier to daydream than have to play a board game to imagine battles against fantasy demons.


Just because something's easier, doesn't make it better!

SparkingConduit wrote:
The second point really doesn't resonate with me. Why not just play a video game instead? Setting up most board games is a lot of work, especially if you have to do it all by yourself.


The set-up and bits are fun in themselves. Again, easier does not equal better.

SparkingConduit wrote:
The third point is also a non sequitur to me. If you like a good story, why not read a book that will provide an even better one than any game could hope to provide?


Interaction. Although I can see that involving more players would increase this. But really, it's interaction as a spectrum, not a binary: novel/film > solo game > multiplayer game.

SparkingConduit wrote:
- It is a lot of work to make otherwise non-solo games into playable solo variants. Again, it's hard to understand the investment in the effort here. Many games require gutting the design almost entirely in order to be worthy solo variants. Not only does that sometimes kill the spirit of the game, but it is also time-consuming. Does the end result really justify the work done to get there?


It's fun to work and think!
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Rolf
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SparkingConduit wrote:
But that doesn't exactly refute my point that a video game AI can handle those nonhuman things much more elegantly. What's better, for example, Starcraft: the Board game or Starcraft? Clearly, the board game is far more social in nature, as all you can do with the computer game is write text messages to the other players and you never meaningfully interact with them outside of blowing their shit up.

The Board Game, however, does a paltry job at mimicking the elegant mechanics the computer uses to build its base, move its units, and so on. A computer can just crunch so many numbers and make so many more decisions in a single second than a human that it makes it hard to imitate the computer game without reducing the board game to nothing but a microcosm of its former self. That's fine and good for a social experience, but why not just play the vastly superior computer game if you're going to do it solo?


What you describe as a disadvantage, may be seen as an advantage: in a board game all state changes are simple so can be clearly understood and to a certain extent (modulo randomness) seen in advance. Also, almost all board games have a discrete turn structure, i.e. they are not 'real-time' (there are of course exceptions, but even fewer in a solo board game). Both of these (to a certain extent) are forced by the medium. So if you like to play games which are turn-based (discrete/non-real-time) and understandable, then a board game will almost necessarily provide these to features.
Of course, a video game can also have these features, but it is much less common (although there are some such video games - and some very good ones at that).
So, what is the difference between a 'solo board game' and a 'puzzle' (e.g. Sudoku)? Nothing in principle, but again, a 'solo board game' will typically (since it arises typically from a multi-player board game) sit at a very particular level of complexity, variety (in the decisions) and predictability. A puzzle may be at the same level, but most of the time it won't (e.g. for must puzzles I know, the decisions have little variety).

Next, a board game enables a wider variety of user-interfaces, compared to a video game. It can use 3D (without any issues), has lots of space (the size of a table compared to the size of a 10''-24'' screen) and can (if desired) include dexterity elements. I guess that with modern technology most of these could be transferred to a video game (but at sometimes great monetary cost).

Beyond these abstract notions, the feeling of say pulling chits from bags one after the other and cheering or cursing depending on the outcome is very different than revealing the same number of chits on a screen (even if you have to click for each chit). In essence, you interact with the video game solely via vision, whereas for the board game a tactile element may be added.

Finally a question: why go outside to get 'fresh air' (if you don't live in a polluted area) when you could get much 'better' air much more efficiently from a breathing apparatus/air conditioning unit? Why run a marathon through a polluted city, when you could run the same 'distance' in your local gym (in much healthier surroundings)?
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For some of us computer games can induce headaches. This has happened to me as I've gotten older.

I love solo games because I love to grapple with the mechanics of a game as much as I enjoy playing them with other people.

For someone that grew up on Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, the notion of solo gaming is very natural to me and I don't see the set-up as a chore...rather it is part of the experience.

I am also a 12 year old trapped inside the body of a 36 year old...so I still get giddy when I know I am about to play something cool. I have the ability to get lost in my own excitement and don't need others to reach that point. Hence solo works for me.
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Joe Wert
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I play games solo because I like to explore the logic behind the mechanics and design and I enjoy the learning experience that a new game presents. This is best done solo because I can ruminate at length about any part of the game without distraction, or go to different points of the game whenever I please, none of the normal hindrances of social gameplay are there to prevent me from pure study of the game.

The way I see it there are two main modes of interacting with games, experiencing and "using" it as entertainment, and deconstructing and analyzing it as a formal system, and how that system is applied. Both of these approaches are used in some manner at all times, by solo and social gamers alike, but it's a question of the ratio.
I think solo gaming is usually enjoyed by people who like to skew their gameplay towards the side of analyzation. Though this is by no means a hard and fast rule, I'm sure many solo gamers also use it as pure entertainment as well.

As far as, "Why not video games?", that's easy, I personally just don't like video games very much and would never consider making such a large investment as a game system/games/peripherals would cost because I wouldn't enjoy playing it very much. That said I do play video games socially if I am somewhere and people are playing, I'm not against them in any way, I just would never play them by myself because I prefer traditional games and books/music/etc.

So I guess the short answer is some people just enjoy board games enough to play alone.
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Gary Bacchus
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A short answer to the question (that has been covered in parts and pieces already) for me is that there are gaming experiences out there that haven't been covered effectively in videogame form, either because it isn't feasible or it isn't commercially viable.

One advantage of solo playing board/card games is that the cost of building the tools to make the gaming experience. It is more cost effective on a smaller scale to build a boardgame than it is for a video game. That is a perfect storm for most of the ultra-niche topics that are covered by solo boardgaming.

It is very easy, for instance, to print up a ruleset and play a game with a deck of cards or PnP something to play. The developer can, ultimately, provide this sort of experience at less cost (to them and to us) than a videogame.

dprijadi wrote:
why would one need boardgame to socialize ?


This doesn't apply to all people. There are, however, a subset of the population that need/want that framework to provide a reason for socialization. It provides common ground as opposed to needing to seek it out. It's the reason why trivia and other games in pubs work so well.
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Richard Glatter
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My big reason for solo gaming is because it gets me away from screens. I am a computer tech and after looking at screens and solving problems with computers for 9 hours a day, I sometimes don't want to come home and look at a screen for a few more hours playing a video game. I also build lego as a hobby and that is fun too, but sometimes a good board game after a long day with frustrating computer problems is the right answer and I don't always have someone around, or just want some time to myself and board gaming is a relaxing way to do that.
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Andrew Garttmeyer
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Can someone please explain to me why people like 'insert random hobby i don't understand here'.

Different strokes for different folks I suppose.
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James Lowry
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SparkingConduit wrote:
The second point really doesn't resonate with me. Why not just play a video game instead? Setting up most board games is a lot of work, especially if you have to do it all by yourself. I cannot, for example, imagine setting up a game of Arkham Horror to play solo, especially seeing how difficult it is to win with a group as it is. Why, then, bother with it? A good video game requires no real setup time and the AI is far more advanced to handle most traditional mechanics than a board game is.

What if you don't just want to play a game? What if what you want is to play Arkham Horror specifically? Most solo play comes from people who like particular kinds of games (mostly wargames), and can't find anything else that scratches that itch.

With wargames in particular, computer wargames are nearly non-existent (though they certainly do exist), tend not to have the same economy of design as most boardgames, and tend not to give you the full rules in any kind of comprehensible manner, while obfuscating details of what the system is doing.

And the AI is often pretty poor anyway.
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Foldes Gabor
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forever alone
 
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Jason Doyle
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I just enjoy fiddling with my bits.

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bruinrefugee
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I imagine there's a lot more solo-gaming among wargames than other sub-genres; at least that is/was true for me (more in the past). Lots of good reasons have already been touched on why people do it. Some for me:

(1) If I'm looking at a wargame -- even if I think I can play with someone else eventually -- it's good to get through the mechanics and a game or two just to understand the play, feel, balance and potential strategies. Chess has some of the same qualities, like working with a new opening;

(2) Sometimes, it's also a way to enhance (tactically/visually) my understanding of a given historical situation, where I'm not necessarily looking to win, but to understand the various perspectives and how they're shaped by terrain, resources, etc.;

(3) With wife, kids, career, etc. questions of time (whether starting/stopping or others) sometimes these factors mean that's the only way to pull a game out. I generally don't like most desktop interfaces, but I will say the ipad has increased solo (AI) and mutual play time on traditional board games -- now if there were just wargames for the thing. All of which ties into --

(4) it's a limited market to begin with and me being no evangelist (not a lot of "Hey, after the keg and the football game, let's head back and play .... Scrabble or Ticket to Ride...much less ASL, Battles for the Ardennes or whatever"), without a good grasp of vassal or a concerted search for players, sometimes solo it is (for wargames).

The small group of non-players that knows I have these things looks at me a little funny anyhow. I'm not sure the circle needs to be that much wider. But I do have my kids to slowly bribe into playing...
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I'll have to come back and read this thread after lunch. Meanwhile, have a look at my blog, Solitary Soundings.

It's all about solo gaming.
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Robert Stuart
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It's difficult to give reasons for things you very much enjoy, but let me give it a try.

I am not an antisocial person -- far from it. I have a very wide circle of friends, I have maintained close friendships across decades and continents, and I enjoy social company in general. And, I do play wargames with other people. And I enjoy outdoor activities like hiking.

However, I also enjoy my own company, and spend a lot of time indoors, doing things by myself. I enjoy reading, for instance, both fiction and nonfiction. I'm a physicist, and I find myself studying new areas of physics on my own (for no special reason except that I enjoy it), and working on problems in physics & mathematics. And I find that I also enjoy playing board wargames against myself. Why board wargames? I don't know; I certainly don't enjoy playing Chess or Go on my own. But there's just something about board wargames that I can't get away from, like reading a good book, learning a new theory or formalism, or working on a good mathematical problem.

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bob_santafe wrote:
It's difficult to give reasons for things you very much enjoy, but let me give it a try.

I am not an antisocial person -- far from it. I have a very wide circle of friends, I have maintained close friendships across decades and continents, and I enjoy social company in general. And, I do play wargames with other people. And I enjoy outdoor activities like hiking.

However, I also enjoy my own company, and spend a lot of time indoors, doing things by myself. I enjoy reading, for instance, both fiction and nonfiction. I'm a physicist, and I find myself studying new areas of physics on my own (for no special reason except that I enjoy it), and working on problems in physics & mathematics. And I find that I also enjoy playing board wargames against myself. Why board wargames? I don't know; I certainly don't enjoy playing Chess or Go on my own. But there's just something about board wargames that I can't get away from, like reading a good book, learning a new theory or formalism, or working on a good mathematical problem.



This sounds much like me, I enjoy socialising, but I also very much enjoy my own company, pursuing different ideas and topics. I do get a buzz from learning new things, so that is definitely part of it. I'm fairly new to board wargames but they definitely scratch the same sort of itch though it's hard to put a finger on why exactly. I'm currently on a bit of a military history thread because of the wargames, but I'm just as likely to be reading mathematics and playing with problems.

Not a physicist but I did study and work in scientific areas. I guess the complex wargame in progress which has emerged from a relatively simple set of rules appeals to the scientist in me.

I like rules.
 
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Jon H.
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While I don't prefer solo games usually sometime's they're nice. Generally I would consider them to be sort of a mental puzzle to solve. That's also why I wouldn't usually play a game solo more than few times.
 
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John Herrera
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My wife won't let me have friend over every day and I do read books, magazines, and have Netflix streaming. There is on occasion for me to want to play a game (i am finding the D & D games fulfilling such as Castle Ravenloft, WoA, and Drizzt) and it is fun to play solo at times. I also enjoy setting up a game to rules that i have forgotten and play a few rounds to help establish game play. I guess what it comes down to, is that we are not all wired the same - we just enjoy doing what we want.
 
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