Is it odd to prefer playing a wargame solo rather than FtF?

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the designer of a wargame some questions, and it turned out he lives in the same town that I work in.

During the course of messages through BGG with this designer, the suggestion came up that at some point we could do a FtF game.

Two or three years ago (I have only gotten back into board wargaming in 2009 after a 25 year absence) I would have jumped at the offer. But not now. I declined his offer with a number of valid reasons, but it still left me with pondering if there was another reason to not want to play FtF. I mean, I play miniature wargames every week with a number of players, but why is it I prefer to play board wargames solo?

Tonight, after playing a few turns of a game I have on the table, it occurred to me what that reason was. I have listed below all the reasons why I prefer to play solo (which are the reasons I game to the designer) and the reason I discovered tonight.

1 - TIME. Playing a game. big or small, will take from 4 evenings upwards to play, depending on the size/type/complexity, and these evening are never set in stone, due to family life. I will pick up my game as and when the chance comes, with the hope of getting 2-3 hours playing time.

2. - PEACE AND QUIET. Very much in short supply in my house, courtesy of my wife and teenage daughter. Once the daughter has disappeared up into her bedroom, that is normally the green light for me to get my game out so I have the peace to concentrate on the battle ahead.

3. - TOPIC. This is great. I can choose the era that I want to play next without having to consider anyone else - TOTAL FREEDOM OF CHOICE!

4. - TO PONDER AND EXAMINE (the final reason). When I pick up a game that covers a specific battle, I like to read up about said battle, learn about the combatants, the leaders, the terrain and the tactics that the combatants used.

I also like to examine how the battle in my wargame is progressing, and work on this from all sides, looking at different options, and even comparing to the original events of the battle. This sort of stuff can eat away at time, but it allows me to employ  a certain strategy using various tactics.

It is a study of the battle that happened many years ago, and a chance for me to study the battle in detail with a game, in my own time and my own space. I can examine all angles of the battle at leisure, and learning as I go along. This is something I could never do FtF, as my opponent would just get fed up with me for time wasting!

Does anyone else enjoy solo play over FtF? If so, are there other reasons why?

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Comment by Christian A. Strasser on December 30, 2013 at 11:51am

I've been playing solo for a few years now.  While it's fun and convenient for all the reasons you cite above, I wonder about my tactics and complete neutrality.  It's great to have someone on the other side who is trying their darndest to beat you and have to figure out how to respond.

Comment by David Slonosky on December 27, 2013 at 12:07pm

I only do it to learn rules and to get the flavour of the game.

Comment by Kev on December 24, 2013 at 12:06am

Solo can be a rich experience. But it can also be limiting, as you miss strategies, opportunities, and different elements of play

Comment by Roger Morley on December 16, 2013 at 3:58pm

Anthony - you are correct it does limit game selection. If I am ever interested in buying a game, I alway look on BGG and elsewhere to see how well it plays solo.

Kyle - I to like to explore the strategic and tactical possibilities of the games I play, something I would find hard to do FtF.

Also your comment about Vassal is pretty much the reason why I have avoided it. The only game I played on it was VPG Bussaco 20, which played well on Vassal, but it does have a small map. Anything bigger and I would have hated playing it as I would not have been able to get a good visual perspective of the map and what is happening on it. I am also at work on a PC for a lot of the time, and like you, board games are a great escape!

Comment by Kyle Seely on December 16, 2013 at 3:16pm

Sometimes I prefer solo gaming over face-to-face, for all of the reasons you noted.  I particularly enjoy it for large monster games, or games with particularly intricate or difficult rules, as it means I can really move at my own pace, and not feel that sense of urgency that I'm not maximizing the use of other individuals' time.  Plus, it allows me to really explore the strategic or tactical possibilities of a game, in potentially game-breaking ways, without worrying that I'm wasting somebody's time who may have been looking for a more "serious" competitive game (though most of my gaming friends are not the hyper-competitive type).  Anyway, there are just certain obligations that one feels with face-to-face gaming that don't exist for solo gaming, but, as noted, face-to-face gaming has its own, different rewards from solo gaming.

 

But the ease of playing monster games solo hasn't prevented me from seeking to also play them face-to-face.  I'm a member of a local wargaming club where we will meet at least once a week, sometimes more, and can leave games set up there for as long as needed.  So we have been able to play some of those big monster games there, and indeed, the group I game with is actually fond of those "learning" sessions, where we all sit around digesting rules and discussing the game and potential strategies.  We're doing that currently with A World At War.

It also helps that I tend to look at my solo gaming as a weeknight thing, or sometimes a Saturday-morning thing, as my face-to-face gaming is usually on Sundays (usually a group of four) with 2-player face-to-face gaming usually on a Wednesday or Thursday night.  So I've kind of gotten in the habit of mentally being ready for face-to-face gaming on the weekend.

 

One thing I've never been able to get into is Vassal - largely because I like to visualize the entire map, and prefer the tactile experience of boardgaming.  With Vassal, I feel too hemmed-in by the window display.  Additionally, I already sit in front of a computer all day - boardgaming is a means to get away from that. 

Comment by Anthony Hicks on December 16, 2013 at 10:24am

Roger,

Good reasons. It is difficult to play most involved wargames to a finish FtF unless you live close enough to someone whereby you can easily visit. Case in point, I played Empire of the Sun on Saturday for many hours with a friend and we didn't finish. Unfortunately, he lives over an house away so our times of play are every month or so. Solo gaming is a very good option. 

A downside is that it limits the type of games you can play. Some genres are not amenable to solo play, CDGs for example or games with Fog of War. 

Comment by usrlocal on December 16, 2013 at 9:34am
Playing solo and opposed both have their merits. I agree that playing solo can be a very relaxing and rewarding experience, and very different from an opposed-play experience, even for the same game.
Comment by Enrico CS Viglino on December 15, 2013 at 4:22pm

For me, solo game is THE must have. I far prefer it for the game experience itself.

Opposed play is a means of doing something enjoyable with people I like.

I consider playing with others for the opportunity of meeting people I'd enjoy gaming with,

but it isn't an end in and of itself, so long as I don't already have an established group of friends.

Comment by Roger Morley on December 15, 2013 at 4:03pm

Wayne, I understand and can identify what you say. I have played FtF when using miniatures and on Vassal, and to be truthful, both experiences have been great. Playing miniatures was new territory for me, but they guys at the club pulled me along really well and easy.

Vassal was good to, as I have only ever played that once, but my opponent was very easy going and considerate, which I think you will find with any gamer, even the experienced ones!

Comment by Gary Barr on December 15, 2013 at 9:12am

For me thats one of the big pulls of Vassal as its great to play another person albeit remotely and if things arent going well no real bother agreeing to pull the plug/start again. Also great tool for really leaning a game and seeing fresh tactics/strategies. 

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