I have a pretty large family – five of us in total living under the one roof. And whilst we may not all be of the right age to enjoy certain games (although Peppa Pig Memory Game is a stone cold classic according to my daughter), we genuinely play a fair bit together. However, there are circumstances when our interests will not intersect and no matter how hard we beg or cajole, our friends and family will not budge on their desire to play it. My wife, for example, has no interest in anything sci-fi related, no matter how much I enthuse on them. But for myself, what options are left for me to scratch that itch.
I have already discussed the online tools that allow you to enjoy some of your favourite gaming experiences in a previous blog. But this entry takes us to a much darker place. Today we discuss solo gaming …
Just before I go on – if you do play a solo game, I must give the following advice.
DO NOT CHEAT. I AM TALKING TO YOU, YOU BIG CHEATER.
You’ll only be doing yourself a disservice. Let us continue …
Picture a solitaire game. You are thinking about the card game aren’t you? The way that bored office workers have entertained themselves since the days of Windows 3.1 (yes, I am showing my age … again). But Klondike patience as it is also know, was basically the only way that a bored child could entertain themselves on long train/plane journey when I was young. Turning some cards to achieve a mainly random outcome was hardly the most thrilling of pursuits. But it kept you busy.
Thankfully we have evolved since such times.
Or have we? As my first memories of a more advanced single player game actually date from something released in 1989.
Advanced Heroquest by Games Workshop actually came with solo rules built into the system. Although you couldn’t play any of the pre-designed adventures, it gave you a way to create random dungeons and popular them with monsters. Furthermore it also produced a monster intelligence system, whereby creatures would react in a different way depending on their “role”. Therefore sentry type monsters had a chance of running off to find their buddies rather than fighting the heroes themselves.
There was a few problems with this approach – it relied upon a lot of charts. So many charts that it really put the “crawl” into dungeon crawl as you had to roll up the type of room you found; the number of exits; the type of monsters; number of monsters and then monster behaviour. Nothing felt intuitive and the randomness became grating at times (there is one scout in front of your entire party – he charges you when it would be much more likely he would run off to alert people). However, this type of approach can still be found in games like Warhammer Quest, although made much more streamlined.
I think you can breakdown solitaire play into two major groups – those which present themselves as a puzzle to be cracked (similar to cooperative games) and those that have a degree of automation to allow you to sim the adversaries behaviour (as in the example of Advanced Heroquest). The later is likely to become more and more populr, as we start to see game utilising Apps to recreate the dungeon masters of old. Although a clever card based system can also reproduce this equally as well (look at the Lord Of The Rings Card Game for an example of this – flexible, simple but still incredibly challenging to overcome).
Irrespective of the style or type of game you choose, I normally pick up a solo game for one of three reasons. Firstly, as detailed at the start of this article – I have an itch to scratch and no one else wants to play a particular game with me. For example, my family are very rarely interested in anything from the Games Workshop universes, so when I want to bring out my copy of Death Angel, it is usually just me trying to crack the game. Similarly with games that appear complex, I will usually find myself playing those myself.
The second reason tends to be filling a bit of time – much in the same way that I would have done with patience in days gone by. Here I am looking for quick and easy to set up solo games – something like Onirim or Hostage Negotiator that promises a quick play time and is a little more involved or better themed than a normal deck of cards.
Finally, and the type of solo play that I probably engage in the most, is the experimental style. Here I will normally take a game that has capacity for 1 or more players and try approaching it in a different fashion, but by doing so I am not negatively affecting the experience of other players who might find my style either aggravating or in the case of a co-op, counter intuitive to the group’s goal. Games that I tend to do this with usually have a long set up and play time, or convoluted rules that need a proper assessment and run through. Usually I am scheduling an afternoon or evening out of my schedule to account for the time I am likely to spend going through this.
I hope you can see that solo games are not just the sole preserve of solitaire anymore and that to step outside that comfort zone of the social experience of gaming can be worthwhile ever now and again. It would never replace playing with my friends and family, it is a worthwhile experience for various reasons.
Give it a whirl. You may surprise yourself.