With the recent rise in popularity of board and general table top games there has come something spoken of in hushed tones in the corner of game rooms, a subject that will have the magic the gathering nerds laughing in derision and Warhammer geeks guffawing. Solitaire table top games can take many forms with many big box games offering a solo variant and others having solo rules dreamt up by the social outcasts craving human contact from the recesses of boardgamegeek and then finally there are the small solo only games that are creeping into what should be a sociable and friendly hobby. But why do people play them and should we burn them at the stake or dunk them in the fish pond and see if they float or sink first?
In truth there are a number of reasons to play solo board games over say video games or watching paint dry, the first and most obvious being practice. Many of us will have been in the situation where you get a big box game plough through the rules and then drag your friends round kicking and screaming to have a go with you, only to realise that you’re having a bit of trouble putting what you’ve just read into practice and the Munchkin player at the end of the table moaning that they don’t get it isn’t helping. My first foray into solo gaming came from ‘The Legend of Drizzt’ one of D&D’s table top tile laying games. The game itself comes with several scenarios to enjoy which alter the amount of time you will be playing, the type of monsters you will be facing and the amount of players who will be running off in stupid directions making sure every plastic mini in the box will get a chance at killing you, usually all at once. Before you get into these Scooby Doo style chase games however the first scenario to run is a solo one, meant for one player and one character. I probably played this round three or four times before I beat it and got the game, this meant that when I finally convinced people to play a game about elves and dragons with me I could speak with some authority and answer their questions quickly and easily.
Related to this are the games that you can never win against smug, rule knowing dweebs; with a great example being the new Dungeon Twister game (granted not that new, and probably quite old by the time anyone actually reads this) Prison. Dungeon Twister is a hard game involving deep tactics, clever strategies and a name that means you should explain it very carefully before you bring anyone back to yours to play it with you. Now because this game is far less well known than say chess which can be played with everyone from homeless people to calculators it means that if your friends are better than you at it then you’d better get used to being beaten because there is no way to get a rocky training montage in and surprise them with a sudden win, unless that is the game comes with a one player variant that gives you a chance to practice. It also means you can now loose against a piece of paper instead of just your friends. Look at all the possibilities board games give you.
Finally there is the matter of price and friends. An average table top game will run you approximately forty quid much like the latest instalment of *insert popular computer game franchise here*. Now you can play your vidja game whenever you want, fancy a quick round before work sure, like to unwind with a marathon session on Friday night then go right ahead. But board games don’t work like that and you could well have just bought yourself a very expensive doorstop. If you can’t get your friends round or they simply don’t like that game then shove it on top of your wardrobe and leave it be, unless of course you can get it down and give it a run through by yourself.
Often this changes games however and while you are now picturing the sort of sad sack who would do this (I have redish brown hair just in case you were wondering) it turns games of cooperation and teamwork into pure puzzles and games of tactics into push your luck situations. For instance Pandemic no longer rests on getting your plan across to the others but merely working the puzzle before you, out in your head (no it doesn’t make the game any easier, though I did learn how flammable the rules were). The argument for playing computer games alone and board games in groups no longer holds sway in our society. In this day and age so many computer games are defined by their online mode that single player stories are fading away and there are so many great solo play options complete with the tactile feel of the pieces in your finger, the board laid out before you like a general surveying the battlefield and the type of game which lays its rules and challenges out in the open and dares you to beat it. This point has been coming for a while. Ever since Monopoly was ported over to everything with a circuit board, when it was clearly aimed more at a solo play through, after all if you wanted to play with others it was far easier to go and get the copy every family has stashed away somewhere out and the new launches like Friday and Phantom leader both board games aimed at the lone player there has been a rise to this point with table top games and computer games influencing the other. Thus it is only up to each gamer to decide where they stand on this point.
To round this out I will be giving a copy of rules found on boardgamegeek detailing how you can turn a common multiplayer game found in many collections into a cool little puzzle for one. Enjoy.
Now don’t worry the rules for this game are one sheet of less than 200 words which give an interesting play option to a classic game sat on many a tabletop gamers shelves. Using the base set of the game one set of men and all your tiles you play along as normal with a few twists. Ignore farmers and Monks and always claim one new city or road when a new tile allows it. This means that if a tile you are about to place completes a city or road retrieve your meeple as normal, if it will continue a currently claimed city or road than proceeded as normal if it will start a new city or road then you must claim one of these options. If you are unable to do so then you have lost, flip the table or as this is a solo game, look around to make sure nobody has snuck into the room to watch you and then cheat.
A typical game will last you about ten to twenty minutes and once you have beaten it, something I am currently unable to do, then you can proceed to the advanced rules which include the Monk.
Unlike the other solitaire rules for Carcassonne that run as a point based game where you can repeat for higher scores this is a pure puzzle game much like playing minefield or doing the morning Sudoku. While I would not encourage anyone to go out and buy Carcassonne for these rules alone it allows you to get down your dusty copy and waste a few minutes on a fun little diversion.
Though be warned that these new rules, as warned above, change the game play significantly. Seen as how you are no longer chasing points be sure to seal off roads and cities quickly, this dramatic change in style will probably be the biggest hurdle for many when playing this game.