When I first began getting into board games, the social aspect was one of the biggest draws. The whole idea of getting together with friends and family to share time around the table was a big part of why I loved the hobby. However, I would soon discover and learn to love what I feel is a somewhat misunderstood part of our community. When I played with my gaming group, my role fell into explaining the rules out to the rest of the players. I needed to learn all I could about the games to make it as easy as possible for the other players and setting up the entire game and playing for a few rounds by myself, gave me the best results. When it came to fully cooperative games I found myself playing out the whole game on my own, and really loving the experience. I started to seek out other games that would support this and to my surprise there was a slew of games to choose from. This started me on my path as a solo gamer.
Many people don’t get the draw of this niche and I completely understand. You are sitting alone doing something that is hailed as being a social activity, but I hope to give a few reasons why I personally am attracted to solo gaming. One of the biggest reasons I started solo gaming is the convenience. If I decide that I feel like playing a game, I don’t need to get a group of people together and decide what to play; I just sit down and get started. Another reason is the fact that I don’t have to worry about teaching the game to anyone else. I don’t know about you, but I often find teaching a game to be a stressful experience. When I am on my own I am able to take my time going through the rules without anyone depending on me. Several games that I enjoy have a lot of things going on and can leave me with some tough decisions to make. If I’m playing on my own I am able to take as much time as I like on these choices without affecting anyone else. Even to the point of walking away from the game completely and coming back when I’m ready. My last point is speed. When playing a game solo the overall playtime compared to multiplayer can be shortened quite significantly. This makes is possible to get more gaming done and sometimes getting the same game played several times in a row.
One game that has filled this role for me as of late is a game published by Minion Games and designed by James Mathe called The Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction. In this card game you are trying to score as many points as possible by building bombs and sometimes loading those bombs onto planes. This is accomplished by supplying the labor and resources necessary to facilitate these projects. You will be playing out cards for either their personnel or building/ability. Every card has some value of general laborers, scientists or engineers on the left hand side that can be played sideways to activate the buildings on other cards.
The buildings are mines that will allow you to generate yellowcake, enrichment plants where you’re able to refine yellowcake into uranium ingots, universities that can be used to gain a greater labor force, and factories increase your overall production potential by letting you add more card to your hand for that turn. As you gain more resources you will be able to spend them in order to build bombs from an array of face up cards worth different amounts of points depending on how expensive they are to build. As a solo player, you are trying to optimize every card to the best of your ability because the the game ends when the deck of cards runs out. In that time you are playing to try and score as many points as possible.
The multiplayer game has a bit of a different feel as it has much more of a “race” feel because you are playing until a player reaches a certain number of points and finishing out the round. In the multiplayer game there is a “take that” element as there are a few cards that let you steal cards from other players hands or take some of their resources. Obviously this aspect of the game is lost in a solo game, but it plays such a small part of the multiplayer game that it isn’t missed. Overall if you are looking for a filler solo game that you can get played in 10-15 minutes this is a good one. It’s not going to break your brain but it will give a few thing to think about as you puzzle out the best way to use the cards as you watch the deck set smaller and smaller.
These are only a few bullet points and a small review but over the next few months I hope to go further in depth as I talk about other games from the perspective of me as a solo gamer. Both games that are intended to be played exclusively as solo games and ones that come with rules for solo variants. What do you think about solo gaming in general? Have you ever tried it? I would love to hear input from people!