"The simplest answer is: More gaming choices."
December 17, 2015 10:17 PM   Subscribe

The 2015 People's Choice Top 100 Solo Tabletop Games: a list produced by BoardGameGeek's 1 Player Guild in connection with the 1 Player Podcast. Over 200 voters today put the Mage Knight Board Game in the top spot once more, but a number of smaller/shorter games made the top 10 too. The group's FAQ "Why do some people play solitaire board games?" explains how solo tabletop gaming complements multiplayer and digital board gaming. This week, incidentally, the iOS Board Games blog is synopsizing the latter in its annual Digital Board Games Gift Guide. posted by Wobbuffet (23 comments total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
Why do some people play solitaire board games? Because Hell is other people.
posted by Segundus at 11:24 PM on December 17, 2015 [15 favorites]

A good solo tabletop game is something I'm really learning to enjoy. I actually played a lot of solitaire when I was a teenager and made up some rudimentary solo Star Wars-ish battle games played with Lego ships, a ruler and dice. There's something very liberating and meditative about it, at least for me. Maybe my wife is working or watching something, the kid is in bed, and I pull out The Lord of the Rings card game or Death Angel or Pandemic in solo mode, put on some headphones and I'm soon going through a whole range of experiences and emotions and second guessing and despair and occasionally the thrill of achieving something really difficult.

It's a type of escapism I'm having trouble getting from screens these days. I guess I don't always want to passively view another character having an adventure; although I enjoy being taken on a journey, I want to make the decisions that lead to certain outcomes myself and take some amount of responsibility for the outcome.
posted by vverse23 at 11:39 PM on December 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'm looking forward to giving the new Runebound as well as the slightly-less-new Shadows of Malice a few good solo sessions this holiday season. Also if anybody has some good suggestions for solo LotR LCG decks that they have used and been successful with, hit me up! And I've had Gears sitting on my shelf for ages, so I should sort that out too.

Mage Knight is incredible but please DO NOT buy this as your first solo game unless you are a) a fairly experienced boardgamer and b) very patient and c) have plenty of table space.

In conclusion: solo gaming ftw!
posted by turbid dahlia at 11:57 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yay for Mage Knight, solo or otherwise, though I wholeheartedly agree with turbid dahlia about its beginner-unfriendliness. Pandemic might be a better bet.

There are plenty of reasons for solo play, but this one from the list isn't a great one:

They might live in a small town where it is hard to form a game group

Most people in my 15+ person gaming circle live in or at least originate from two towns with populations of under 2000 and under 8000 people, respectively, and we haven't even tried to expand. A small town is really not a problem, unless we're talking the scale of Tenney, Minnesota. It's just a matter of organizing a few introductory board game nights and advertising them through existing communities like churches or clubs. If you don't want or can't do this, that's fine, but the size of the town isn't the issue.

Modern board games bring people together like nothing else I've found. They are an actual, honest-to-god way of making new friends as an adult, something that nearly everybody considers difficult otherwise; not necessarily close friends, but at least friendly acquaintances with whom you enjoy spending the occasional board game night. Their appeal is so wide that even small towns will inevitably have bunches of people who would be more than happy to play, just waiting to be introduced to them.

The other listed reasons are valid in my books, and I emphasize that I'm not criticizing solo play in any way even though I personally find group play to be vastly superior, but I think that town size is really an excuse used to hide an actual reason (e.g. social anxiety, a highly esoteric taste in games, not wanting other people to touch your precious things or just plain laziness).
posted by jklaiho at 1:16 AM on December 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

So, after-action report, I've just spent the past couple of hours getting to grips with Runebound 3rd edition, playing as two characters. I'm not sure if I like it quite as much as 2nd edition just yet but that be my initial reaction to the new token mechanic for combat - it makes things a little fiddlier than they need to be. For example, when you score a nice bit of equipment from town, you need to dig around for the token in the token bank, and add it to your pool, rather than just attaching its modifier(s) to your character. Then you toss all your tokens and toss the enemy tokens and then dick around with those for what feels like minutes on end, attacking and defending and flipping and activating powers. I think after a few more plays I'll have the hang of it and it will go a lot more smoothly. The trophy/skills thing could be really awesome but I didn't get enough trophies to actually upgrade any skills. I also wish FF would stop being such epic cheapskates and include something a little better than blank dice that you literally have to stick stickers to like it's fucking 1982. But still, it's pretty okay!
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:44 AM on December 18, 2015

"It's hard to get gaming groups in small towns" sometimes also means "I tried to get a group going but that one guy kept making awful jokes with fake gay voices and the other guy wouldn't leave his gun at home and that lady stole all my dice and they only wanted to play Munchkin and Fluxx all the time."

Hell, I live in a pretty big city and don't go out unless forced to, and I've met half the gamers who show up to every/any geek-esque event. Subcultures are small and insular by nature, and if your starting pool is small enough, you might really just not have any options.
posted by Scattercat at 4:06 AM on December 18, 2015 [10 favorites]

"I have an Uno deck and a copy of Monopoly! I'll have to teach you our house rules"
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:26 AM on December 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

For those interested in solo boardgaming, allow me to thoroughly recommend the videos of Ricky Royal from Box of Delights. Ricky (I guess his name is Ricky) does extremely useful playthroughs of many solo games (including the definitive Mage Knight playthrough). The Lonesome Gamer is also a great channel.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:41 AM on December 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

Okay, so I'm not weird for making up different personalities for imaginary players while playing Monopoly alone? (Only child whose parents only played anything once in a great while.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:23 AM on December 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Okay, so I'm not weird for making up different personalities for imaginary players while playing Monopoly alone? (Only child whose parents only played anything once in a great while.)

I certainly did and indeed still do when playing through a new game solo to learn how it works. "Personalities" might be too strong a word -- I might play one side with a hell-for-leather/devil-take-the-hindmost approach, one as a more slow-but-steady side, etc. This also lets me begin to develop a sense of how different strategies might work. Is it better to go for territory or to try to stockpile resources?

In an episode of WILTY, David Mitcjhell once talked about playing multi-player boardgames solo as a kid. This was no biggie, but I was surprised by the two games he mentioned doing this with -- Monopoly (of course) and Diplomacy (how the hell...?)
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:42 AM on December 18, 2015

Many co-op games can be played solo with you controlling multiple players. There is no ill effect on gameplay because you don't have any hidden information and your goals are all the same. Playing non co-op games by yourself requires some mental partitioning.
posted by Joe Chip at 6:43 AM on December 18, 2015

I can't count the number of times my wife and I lost to her cat playing Masterpiece when we were first dating.
posted by malocchio at 6:47 AM on December 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Pandemic Legacy is fantastic solo* -- frankly the most exciting and surprising board game I've ever played, solo or otherwise. The downside is that you can only play the campaign unspoiled once, so if you do have a group to play it with, you really should. But solo or not, effing play it, it's incredible.

*(I recommend 3 characters, and use the 4th pawn to mark "whose" turn it is.)

The Pathfinder card game is also pretty good solo, though different combinations of characters work better than others.
posted by rifflesby at 6:53 AM on December 18, 2015

Okay, so I'm not weird for making up different personalities for imaginary players while playing Monopoly alone? (Only child whose parents only played anything once in a great while.)

Well I don't think so. Even my chess pieces had (have) conversations with each other. Some people have been know to find this odd when I'm not playing by myself. (Yes, another only child here)
posted by Sing Fool Sing at 6:55 AM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've tried to get into Friday a few times, and its never quite clicked. It sits forgotten on a shelf! Poor game.

On the other hand, Onirim is great. I really enjoy it. Its cousin-sequel, Urbion, is also quite good.
posted by curious nu at 6:57 AM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Okay, so I'm not weird for making up different personalities for imaginary players while playing Monopoly alone? (Only child whose parents only played anything once in a great while.)

Oh fuck I just realized that the asshole I made up who played Monopoly way too aggressively and always ended up winning came to life and is Donald Trump.
posted by Etrigan at 7:26 AM on December 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

See, I live in a city but not a large or very geek-friendly one, and my gaming group? It's not that it doesn't exist. But we all have different working schedules, several people had kids, and we spend more time trying to wrangle everybody into the same apartment at the same time than we do actually playing, when we get to it. Lately, it just hasn't been working. I do a lot of stuff online, but I'm very interested in solo games that are fine if my free time is one-hour chunks before bed every night and also fine if one night I'm too tired and can't play and whatever.
posted by Sequence at 7:34 AM on December 18, 2015

Having just recently found and read the 2014 list and discovered that the opinions given gel with mine for the games I own on it I'm looking forward to reading 2015's, thank you for the heads up.

I started playing Pathfinder solo last Sunday and have only just managed to survive the opening scenario with the Sorcerer Seoni. I swear i'm playing it a bit wrong but I am quite enjoying it. I've also owned for about a year a copy of Arkham Horror and reading through 2014's list has encouraged me to try it solo, having been hoping but failing to find some people to play it with since Christmas last year.

As much as I prefer to play board games with others, my tastes will not always gel with theirs and thus a game that supports solo play is always welcome, especially in my case if it comes with some nice minis to paint.
posted by diziet at 8:56 AM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I prefer computer games, so you can play online with people far away and not have to fiddle with stuff on a kitchen table. OTOH I really like board and card games because of the diversity of game mechanics. There's a lot of really weird and intricate games out there and I want to sample them more easily.
posted by Nelson at 9:57 AM on December 18, 2015

Nelson: You might consider checking out Tabletopia, which is shaping up to be a good digital way to sample tabletop games.
posted by Inkslinger at 10:17 AM on December 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Thanks for this! I'm falling back in love with tabletop gaming, but having a hard time finding a regular way to do it - my wife& brother-in-law enjoy games, but not the sometimes weirdly complex/setup heavy ones that I like (she seems to top out at Pandemic, in terms of rule & setup complexity, so my dreams of things like Arkham Horror are right out) and I'm having a hard time finding a regular gaming group for this need (the only one I'm aware of in town meets on Sunday afternoons, which is a difficult time for me). I'm introducing my boys to some gateway games, in the hopes of getting them engaged.

Anyways, learning about solo games is great!
posted by nubs at 11:28 AM on December 18, 2015

this is great!
posted by garlic at 1:56 PM on December 18, 2015

When the Little Hobo was born, I found a bunch of card games with the "Zombie In My Pocket" style round-based-card-interpretation mechanic, and played a bunch of them in hospital waiting rooms.

There was a civ clone I found especially engrossing. I keep meaning to make my Tradewars 2002 solitaire card game some day…
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 5:01 PM on December 18, 2015

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