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Subject: Does Solo Gaming Feel 'Unnatural'? rss

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Xavier X
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For me, a big part of playing board games is interacting with other human beings. However, because I like also like games because of their themes and mechanics, I thought I would try playing a solo game.

I purchased the game Friday, as I've read positive reviews of it, the theme resonated with me, and it was inexpensive enough that I was willing to take a chance on the experiment. I learned the game and sat down to play it. Although I made it through the game, the whole experience was quite simply 'unnatural.' It didn't feel like I was playing a game, and I don't think it was the game's fault. When I was done, I didn't even have an opinion of the game. I just felt like I was moving cards and pieces around with no real end or purpose. Essentially, I set the game up, time went by, and I put it back in the box. I took nothing away from the session. I had no fun memories, nothing noteworthy to recall, and a few times during the game I asked myself what I was even doing. A few weeks later, I decided I would give it a second try. I unboxed the game and set it up, and just as I was about to start I just put it away. Without the other players, the interaction, and the conversation, playing board games just isn't fun for me.

*I realize that I haven't defined 'unnatural' here as it is a feeling and so rather hard to describe. For context, I do not have any issue with being alone or doing things alone, and in fact, there are certain activities which I find to be quite enjoyable to do alone at times (reading, listening to music, writing, etc.).

Poll
Does solo gaming seem 'unnatural' to you?
Yes. I've played at least one solo game and it felt 'unnatural.'
No. I've played at least one solo game, but it did not feel 'unnatural.'
I've never played a solo game.
      912 answers
Poll created by xxxavierxxx
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J J
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Unnatural? No.

The only time I play games solo is to learn them so that I can present them to the group as game I can already play and so properly introduce (I despise the thing where you take the shrink-wrap off at the table, punch the boards, and attempt to learn the game while reading a never-before-opened rulebook).

It is different, certainly, and I have absolutely no interest in solo gaming other than this, but that's it.
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Steve Burt
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I know what you mean, but most of the time when playing solo games it is fine; it does depend quite a lot on the game, though.
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Rich Shipley
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It is about what you enjoy in gaming. Having other people trying to prevent you from reaching your goal (or at least trying to achieve theirs first) is what makes a game for me. I might set something up and make some moves to figure out a game, but that isn't playing, just learning.
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Mike Qunell
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steveburt wrote:
I know what you mean, but most of the time when playing solo games it is fine; it does depend quite a lot on the game, though.


I agree. Some games have a much better solo option than others. They are best when you can "win" or "lose" rather than just scoring as many points as possible and comparing it against some score standard set by the rules.
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Daily Grind
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For me, playing thematic games solo is just the same as playing a video game. You can get story immersion even with the absence of others. And playing a Euro solo is just the same as doing a crossword solo, you get to solve a puzzle. They're different experiences than playing with with others, but it in no way feel unnatural, just different.
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C B
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steveburt wrote:
I know what you mean, but most of the time when playing solo games it is fine; it does depend quite a lot on the game, though.

I voted yes, but your poll really needed a choice between yes and no.

For the most part I don't like solo gaming. But, I absolutely play full games against myself when I'm learning them, and manage to have fun. I also dig games out and play them solo when it's been too long since they've hit the table and I NEED to play that particular game.
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HenningK
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I can sort of relate. I have played a few games solo (Imperial Settlers, Agricola, Lord of the Rings LCG, Gaia Project), and while I still had decent fun, playing those games solo always felt like a hollow echo of playing them with more. Gaia Project with its intricate simulation of another player was close to the "real thing" than Agricola, but still not at the same fun level.

The one excepetion I encountered is Mage Knight Board Game. That game is incredibly awesome even as a solo game; in fact, I'm not sure how much I want to play it with more people.
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maf man
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I have yet to come across a solo board game that would beat out my choice of solo video gaming/reading/crafting.
While I can see myself enjoying solo board games, it can't hold a candle to even playing games where player interaction is nil but I still am with another person.
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Chris Talbot
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I don't find it unnatural, but it's a greatly different experience than playing a game with others. I'm a wargamer without an opponent these days, though, so when the mood to play hex-and-counter strikes me, it's solitaire or nothing. I keep a few solitaire (or soloable) games around just for such occasions.

Chris
 
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I love solo gaming. Can't say I prefer to playing with people but at least 70% of my plays are solo. It is different and it might require getting used to, however it is still great fun, often more puzzly, with no banter (although I do like e.g. talking to a friend over the phone when solo gaming) but in no way is it unnatural. Maybe cause I grew up on Sudoku, chess puzzles etc, solo gaming is completely natural. What feels unnatural to me are games with more than 2 players. I enjoy them, but man, is that a weird feeling.
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Daniel Harris
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I agree with the OP's sentiment. I've tried solo gaming, but I've found I just dont enjoy it. I think most of the pleasure I get out of board gaming has to do with sitting around a table with friends (both existing and new). Solo gaming does not provide this.

Maybe there is a game that would make solo gaming worthwhile, but I have yet to find it. Gloomhaven was close, but ultimately it was repetitive. I have just received 7th Continent, so that may change things!

I agree with Maf Man below, if I'm going to play a game solo, I'd much rather play a video game (or an app version of a board game). I'm not a huge fan of alot of the AI present in solo gaming either. I'd much rather play against a computer opponent.

That being said, the only "solo" gaming I do these days is really just when I'm learning a game or trying to figure out how to teach others. I dont know if you'd consider that solo gaming.
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I see human opponents as extremely random AI-controlled opponents, so... No. Solo gaming feels very natural to me. Especially given that when I was younger I mostly solo gamed against the computer.
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Bryan Thunkd
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xxxavierxxx wrote:
Does Solo Gaming Feel 'Unnatural'?
Generally, solo gaming doesn't provide the same game experience as multiplayer games.

First off, without the social aspect it's harder for me to get excited about playing a game by myself, especially when it involves a lot of setup and teardown time (and as I enjoy complicated games, it does). Games where there's a lot of manipulation of bits for the AI (like the shuffling in Onirim) also make me feel weary. I'm more likely to play a digital version of those games... especially as a digital AI feels more like an actual opponent than when I'm performing all the manipulations.

Secondly, some solo games completely change the nature of the game. In Agricola for example, it's no longer about competitively trying to get resources, instead your goal is to let resources accumulate and efficiently only take them when you need them. That's a completely different game and feels not much like the multiplayer game to me. It's kind of interesting, but without the competition, the challenge of the game seems a lot less interesting to me.

There are a few games that I've played solo that I've enjoyed. Terraforming Mars was fun. Even though it changes the game and there's no competition from other players, much of what you're doing is the same as you'd do in a regular game. You're still evaluating cards and trying to figure out a plan to increase your production and then convert to getting terraforming done. It's not as good as multiplayer, but it was good enough that I'd play it while I won't play a lot of games solo.

Recently I got Gaia Project and tried the solo game. I enjoyed that game very much. There's an automa AI that uses a deck of AI cards to determine what the automa player does. The actions that the automa takes do a fairly good job of mimicking another player. It's not quite the same as playing another player, but it's close enough that I really enjoyed the experience.
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Tom Builder
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Why do some need other people to enjoy boardgames? Multi player board gaming feels unnatural.
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Albert Hernandez
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Solo gaming feels quite natural to me. Often what I like about solo games is the puzzle aspect. It feels as natural as a jigsaw or sudoku puzzle might.

It definitely doesn't feel like a multiplayer and shouldn't be treated as one. At, I think not.
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Will

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Chris
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I don't know about unnatural (I mean, it's not like there's something wrong with it), but I do find the idea unappealing. I don't think it's something I would ever do, and not just because there are any number of other, more appealing things, some even boardgame-related, that I can do when I have time to myself. If I try to imagine doing it, I just can't see what I would get out of it.
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Andres Montanes-Lleras
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For me the experience was actually the opposite. Though I enjoy alright playing with other people from time to time, and my initial approach to gaming was through multiplayer games, once I found solo gaming I feel like I had find my "natural habitat." Now I not only play a lot more, but also got a lot more involved in the hobby, reading online, thinking about games, and participating in BGG forums. There are even games that play also multiplayer (like Scythe) but I have been reluctant to play with other people, since I like more playing solo.

Of course, I realize this is not for everybody, and I can imagine how it most feel "unnatural" for people who are used to play multiplayer or likes the social component of gaming, but for me it has been a liberating experience to find solo board gaming.
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XL Jedi
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I do have a few games that are specifically solitaire play.

Pros:
Subject matter, gameplay, and genre are very specific to my tastes. I don't have to worry about whether or not someone else is having fun. I can take my time and ponder moves without concern about holding up the game.

Cons:
Not as satisfying to pull off an amazing move with no one around to witness it. If you're playing golf by yourself and you get a hole-in-one does it matter?

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Tom
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I play most of my war games solo, and often prefer it that way. I can stop playing when I need to do something else, and can resume playing when convenient for me. I have the room to leave a game up indefinitely. I think feeling natural or unnatural has nothing to do with playing games.
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Dave J
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cafin8d wrote:
For me, playing thematic games solo is just the same as playing a video game. You can get story immersion even with the absence of others. And playing a Euro solo is just the same as doing a crossword solo, you get to solve a puzzle. They're different experiences than playing with with others, but it in no way feel unnatural, just different.


This! Solo board games took the play of video games in my life.


Edit: another thought is, if you only like board gaming with people, do you actually like board games or just hanging out with people?
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badalchemist
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The solo side of the Hobby is a pathway to many games some consider to be unnatural.
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Xavier X
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typo360 wrote:
another thought is, if you only like board gaming with people, do you actually like board games or just hanging out with people?


Yes. I do like board games.

Also, the vast majority of board games require other people. Solo games represent the minority of board games.
 
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Dave J
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xxxavierxxx wrote:
typo360 wrote:
another thought is, if you only like board gaming with people, do you actually like board games or just hanging out with people?


Yes. I do like board games.


The playing board games solo shouldn’t be a problem for you. Friday probably wasn’t your best place to start. What games do you play?
 
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