Going Solo: Gaming Without a Group

Recently, my gaming friends have all been taken out of our regularly scheduled game nights by work, kids, or just random craziness. So, I got to thinking: what would it be like to game solo?

Don’t get me wrong: groups are great; but, sometimes a good group is hard to find. So, I bought some games with solo play options and got some as gifts, too. That way, when no one else was available, I’d at least have a standby way to pursue my hobby.

Fast-forward to more recently, when I thought I might be witnessing the apotheosis of my solo gaming trend: the release of Handelabra’s Sentinels of the Multiverse iOS app. I’d loved the table-top game, and this port of the game wouldn’t require more than a few taps to get started on super-heroic strategic game-play.

Unfortunately, the release in the US hit a little snag. I really don’t blame either Apple or Handelabra. It’s not like either stood to gain from not releasing a highly popular title, so I’m sure their hearts were in getting the game to as many possible consumers as efficiently as they could.

In the hours of not having the game, I reflected on why I’d pinned so much of my R&R hopes on it. The best I came up with was that the video game format would allow me to play a card game I enjoyed in a way that had a veneer of social acceptability, despite not actually being a social activity. That’s kind of the default for a tablet or phone game, really. Have some time to kill? Bust out your mobile device and blow off some steam.

Setting up cards on the table when alone, had always seemed a bit…awkward. Yet, after a few more hours of waiting, I broke down, got out my iPad, and powered up Handelabra’s Sidekick app. I laid out the hero, environment, and villain cards, and started playing Sentinels the old-fashioned way. The ability to tweet about it, like some sort of geek confessional, made it feel less strange. Strange or not, I had fun, and felt a bit silly for not having played sooner.

All that to say: don’t knock solo, tabletop gaming until you try it.

Looking for where to start? I’ve got you covered.

See, recently did an inventory of my games and I have thirty six (not counting their expansions). Of those, sixteen lend themselves to solo play, and eight of them have specific rules to govern it. The other eight are simply games where I can manage to control one or more character in a cooperative game.

Here’s a list of Aschenglut’s Sanctioned Single Player Games:

Games with Special Single Player Rules

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game

Ascension: Return of the Fallen

Ghost Stories

Race for the Galaxy (with the Gathering Storm expansion; fair warning: this one is a bit more technical than some others)

Dungeon Roll (same as multiplayer, except you’re measuring your success against a range of scores; the higher the score the more epic your heroic feat)

Pandemic (you and the CDC vs. the world’s diseases)

Games Where You (Potentially) Manage Multiple Characters

D&D Board Games (Wrath of Ashardalon, Legend of Drizzt, Castle Ravenloft)

Mice and Mystics

Dead Panic

Sentinels of the Multiverse

Yggdrasil

The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Forbidden Desert

Finally, there’s the game that started me down the path to solo gaming:

Single-Player Only Game

Friday

Only you can escape the island.
Only you can help Crusoe escape the island.

In “Friday,” you play the role of Crusoe’s faithful companion; your motivation is to take the hapless Crusoe from weak and stupid to strong and resourceful through three rounds of increasingly difficult challenges.

After three rounds, ideally, you’ll have weeded out any weaknesses (i.e. removed ineffective cards from your deck and acquired better ones), and then you’ll send Crusoe off to face a couple pirate ships that happened to be sailing by, thus allowing him to leave the island and leave you in peace.

O.k., so the whole random pirate ship thing is random, but it’s still a fun game. You add up your score and see what’s the best you can do.

So the next time you’re alone with a stack of games, you know what to do…

Have a game you like to play solo? Is solo play just not your thing? Let me know in the comments.

-Aschenglut
@dhimmelsgrau

5 thoughts on “Going Solo: Gaming Without a Group

    1. Nice! I’ll have to check Hostage Negotiator out. I’m always impressed by games that scale well from one to multiple players.

  1. I completely agree with you. In fact I’ve also written my own post about my love of solo gaming: http://www.friendsofwumpus.com/why-play-board-games-solo/

    I recently bought Friday and love it. My other favorite go-to’s when I want to play solo are Forbidden Desert and Castle Panic.

    I enjoy Castle Ravenloft but don’t play it quite as often solo because for some reason when playing solo I’m slightly less inclined to play games that require a lot of set up and has lots of pieces…I’m not really sure why. I don’t mind at all when playing with someone else. In fact I rather prefer the bigger games then.

    You mentioned several games I haven’t tried yet and will certainly have to check out. I didn’t realize Dead Panic could be played solo by managing more then one character. I assumed the fact that the players could turn into zombies would make it impossible. Glad to hear otherwise since I love Castle Panic so much. Hmmm maybe I have to buy myself an early Christmas present 😀

    1. Yeah. The D&D games do require a bit of set up; it’s a little more than Mice and Mystics, but I consider it on the outer edge of doable.

      Character zombies in Dead Panic do move under player control up to two spaces; I either treat a character zombie like a normal zombie that moves like the others, or, If I’m feeling extra mean toward my surviving character, I will hunt him or her down, rather than going after survivors.

      Forbidden Desert is fun, too. It is also easy to set up, which is a plus. If you get Zombie Panic and try it solo, you’ll have to let me know what you think.

      P.S. Enjoyed your blog post; great minds think alike 😉

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