Board Gaming · Solo Gaming

My Journey Toward Solo Gaming

**Originally posted on April 14th on BGG.

Playing games by myself is nothing new to me. I grew up in the Nintendo era, playing great series such as the Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Dragon Warrior. I never really got into the multiplayer shoot ’em games like Halo, but I did dedicate some time into one MMO game: Final Fantasy XI. I had been a video gamer since I was five, and twenty-five years later I was still caught in that hobby.

A few years ago I rediscovered board games. I had played Magic: The Gathering and D&D (2nd Edition) back in high school. I had played Super Munchkin with a friend a few years after that. And, after a little work, my wife started to enjoy them, too. She had to get past the idea that the games were too complicated and too much work, and I am glad she did because it was a hobby I could share with her. She had never shown any interest in video games, although she did eventually play through and beat The Last of Us. She had been supportive of the video gaming, but her involvement typically went as far as watching me play Uncharted or The Last of Us to see the story as it unfolded.

But board games remained a thing we did together. It wasn’t until I bought an expansion for one of my favorite 2-player games that things started to change…

I got Race for the Galaxy a little over two years ago for Christmas. I played the game with my wife probably 15-20 times in the first week alone, and I was hooked on the game. It was fun. It was fast. And no two games really played out the same because there was never a guarantee that you would see the same key cards to create the same combination for points. When I learned about the first expansion, The Gathering Storm, I was very interested because of the new starting worlds and the “achievement” scoring tiles to add into the game. And those are excellent additions.

I never suspected my favorite part of that expansion would be the Robot for solo play.

I don’t recall the exact conditions that led to me setting it up for a solo game. It could have been that my wife was out doing something and I was home alone. It may even have been that she simply didn’t want to play a game at the time so I decided to give it a try. Whatever the reason, I had some alone time and, rather than turn on a video game I pulled out Race for the Galaxy and set it up for a solo game. I’m sure I made mistakes in that first game (I usually do in the first play of any game) and I am sure I had to reference the rule book quite a few times (another common occurrence during the first plays of a game), but I am pretty sure I lost. By a lot.

So I played it again. Once more, I cannot recall whether it was an immediate rematch (I suspect it would have been) or a little later. But either way, I wanted to redeem myself. I do remember it took nearly a dozen plays solo to finally beat that Robot for the first time. And what a thrill! It was a challenge. It required me to rethink my approach to the game and come up with strategies other than what I used in a 2-player game. And I still lose as often as I win to this day.

That is where it all began. My next big draw into solo gaming was Legendary, which I got that same year for Christmas. I really enjoyed the game, partially because of the deckbuilding aspect and partially because it was Marvel. It was a game that couldn’t be “solved” like Dominion (my wife refused to take any route other than buying money to buy Provinces, which killed the fun for us both because I wanted to make engines but most couldn’t get started fast enough to catch up) and the semi-coop factor allowed her to still enjoy playing because she could still beat me. But it was never among her favorite games to play, especially as I added expansions which added more complications. So onto the solo table it went.

It was a fun solo game. I rarely regretted pulling it out and playing it, but it had a very big problem: it took too long to set up and tear down for a game that could end so quickly. I could play Race for the Galaxy in the same amount of time and spend a lot less time with setup and teardown. And so it was finally sold this year, being replaced by Star Realms.

I have purchased exactly two games with the soloing aspect in mind:

The Lord of the Rings LCG
Space Hulk: Death Angel

I really loved the first, playing it many times over the course of a month. But then I ran into a predicament: the core game wasn’t enough anymore. There was really only one worthwhile solo scenario unless I wanted to play 2-handed (I didn’t) and my wife had no interest in the game because it was a co-op. I could either invest more into the game, or part with it. And I chose the latter.

I just got Space Hulk not too long ago and it is a large game in a small box. It challenges me in the same way that RftG does. I am yet to win, although my play count is still on the low end. But this game is bound to be a staple in my solo rotation.

So I have learned a few things about myself as a solo gamer in the roughly 1.5 years I’ve been playing solo:

sauron I very much prefer games with an objective over those whose task is simply to gain a higher score.
sauron I prefer to play a game that is as likely to beat me as I am to beat it.
sauron Set-up and tear-down time matters. My solo gaming windows tend to be short these days, so I would rather grab a game I might be able to blow through 2-3 times in the time it would take to set-up and play a single round of a different game.
sauron I tend to consider most games through the scope of “will my wife enjoy this game?” for purchasing purpose. Because 80-90% of my gaming is still done with 2-player games against my wife, so that remains an important factor for me.
ninja But some games, like Space Hulk and, eventually, Albion’s Legacy, will enter that collection simply because I want it for solo play regardless of if she’d like it 2-player.

My soloing adventure is just beginning. Here are the games I’ve played solo so far…as you can see, there are so many that I haven’t gotten to yet. So please, I welcome recommendations on what I might enjoy based on my enjoyment, etc.

David’s Solo Gaming Experiences (and those to come!)

Race for the Galaxy
Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game (traded away)
Firefly: The Game (1 time played so far with Jude’s solo rules & Beholden to Niska story card…made this 1000x better solo!)
Agricola (Revised Edition)
Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Caverna (Unplayed solo)
Space Hulk: Death Angel
The Lord of the Rings LCG (traded away)
Legends of Andor (unplayed solo)
Star Realms (Unplayed solo)
Agincourt (Print & Play)
Star Wars: Imperial Assault (traded away)
Tiny Epic Galaxies
Yeomen: The 9-card Agincourt Game (Print & Play)
Arkham Horror (Unplayed solo)
Five Tribes (Unplayed solo)
 9 Card Siege (Print & Play, Unplayed)
 The Draugr (Print & Play, Unplayed)
 Mini Rogue (Print & Play, Unplayed)
 Elevenses for One (Print & Play, Unplayed)


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