Checking a board game to see if it has solo play has become second nature to me, and has been mostly the driving force behind my purchases lately. It's not only whether or not I'll enjoy a game, but how often can I take it down and play it on my own when I can't gather enough people to reasonably enjoy the game with others. However, a recent purchase decision has put that thinking to the test.
You see, I'm currently debating on whether I should purchase Fuse, a dice game that offers solo play, or Rococo, a game that doesn't, BUT has a BGG fan-created solo variant. You'd think it's a simple, tough decision on which game to play, because the option to play either solo exists. Either I get a game that plays relatively quick, or one that can consume my entire night. However, something didn't quite feel right. To find out what, let's go back a bit...
A Younger Board Gamer
I had people at a previous job that were equally interesting in board games, and game lunches were a weekly thing. So, buying games felt more free. There were always people willing to try, to learn something new, and playing solo was much less of a concern for me.
As life went on, job environments change, and so did my board gaming habits. Now, all of a sudden, I had amassed a collection of games that cannot be enjoyed anymore. Time went on as my games slowly gathered dust, and soon I nearly forgotten the memories tied with each game.
I learned that people in BGG created solo variants for games that required at least 2 players or more. With renewed vigor, I scoured the site with my list of games in hand, and quickly found that most of my games had fan-made solo variants! While time never gave many chances to try them out, it made me happy to know that the option to revisit games by myself was there.
The keyword there was "revisit."
Both games are absolutely brand-new to me; I've never played either before, in any game night or with friends. And both have solo play ( one official, one not). So, why am I pausing? Figure it out yet?
It's one thing to play a brand-new board game designed with solo play in mind. It's another to do so with an unofficial solo variant.
Why? The whole point of board games is to play with others, and if a game says it plays for 2+ players, it's meant for 2+ players. To buy a board game like that with the sole intent of playing it solo is doing the game, and myself, an injustice. Suddenly, I'm not buying games hoping to play with others; I'm buying games to ONLY play with myself.
That's not what I want. I WANT to play with others. I WANT to share good memories with friends, playing and enjoying a board game with other actual people. Playing a board game solo was always a secondary option; it was never intended to be a front-runner to drive purchases. Even entertaining the notion that a multiplayer board game will be first played with an unofficial solo variant is a metaphorical slap in its face.
It's great playing an official solo variant for a board game. It's great playing an unofficial solo variant for a board game I've played before with friends. Playing an unofficial solo variant for a board game I've never played before with friends? It's just not right.
That's not to say I wouldn't buy a game if all I knew I'll be playing is the unofficial solo variant, but it certainly gives pause as to how I want to grow as a board gamer. It's easy to fall prey to the fact that I'll be the only player that...well, gives a damn about playing a game, and even easier to accept it so readily and involuntarily. As I've said time and time again, solo gaming is fine. Just understand that there's always the option to play with others, and to never forget to pursue it. NOT because you won't play by yourself, but that playing with more people brings new changes to any game's strategy and gameplay.
Plus, another reason to still pursue a game with only the unofficial solo variant in mind is, of course, learning and understanding the game better so that when you DO find others to play the game with, you'll be able to concisely teach the game with little difficulty. Nearly forgot about that little reason. I mean, it's better to understand the rules first than screw up halfway and just tableflip the situation.
As for me, I'm probably no better than where I was from the beginning. I'm still undecided whether I'll purchase Fuse or Rococo, and I still intend to play whichever I acquire with its solo variant, official or not. But now I'll remember to remind myself why I got into this hobby, and never forget that playing with others is another experience that should not be forgotten; that I should not assume I'm purely a solo gamer when I'm capable of playing with others any chance I get.