Tabletop skirmish games have long been celebrated for their social aspects, with friends gathering around a table to take part in epic battles. However, there's a growing trend that's gaining popularity among tabletop enthusiasts – solo play.
Many new games include rules for solo play, but often those rules come as an afterthought and act as an expansion of a ruleset designed predominantly for player versus player. If you're creating a tabletop skirmish game, consider approaching the project as a solo game first. This approach will change how you write the rules, think about mechanics, and design your characters and their abilities.
Embracing the independence of solo play in tabletop skirmish games offers a unique and rewarding gaming experience that goes beyond the conventional group setting. In this blog post, we'll explore the various benefits of solo play for tabletop skirmish games and discuss why it can benefit you as a game designer.
The Benefits of Solo Play in Tabletop Skirmish Games
1. Flexibility and Convenience
One of the most significant advantages of solo play is its flexibility. You can enjoy a game whenever you want without coordinating schedules with others. This flexibility particularly appeals to individuals with busy lifestyles or those who crave spontaneous gaming sessions.
Solo play allows you to dive into your favourite tabletop skirmish game at your own pace, making it a convenient and accessible option. If you want to pause a game halfway through, you can leave everything in place and come back to it later without spoiling the game for anyone.
2. Immersion and Narrative Exploration
Solo play allows players to immerse themselves fully in the game's narrative and world. Without the distractions of external conversations or varying play styles, solo players can focus on the intricate details of the story, characters, and setting. This heightened level of immersion often leads to a more profound connection with the game as players become invested in the unfolding narrative and the fate of their miniatures.
I don't know about you, but when I'm into a game, I think about it all the time: painting the miniatures, working out the warband roster or army list, and thinking about how the characters will interact with each other. I imagine the world the characters inhabit and what they would do before and after the battles, so when they come to the tabletop, they have a rich backstory behind them.
3. Strategic Mastery
Solo play offers a unique opportunity for players to hone their strategic skills. Without the input of others, decisions rest solely on the individual player's shoulders. This opportunity allows for a deeper understanding of the game mechanics and a chance to experiment with different strategies.
Solo players can refine their tactics, explore alternative approaches, and master the game's intricacies without the external influence of group dynamics. You can take your time pondering a particular scenario or interaction, and replay events taking a different approach each time.
4. Time Efficiency
Traditional tabletop gaming sessions can sometimes be time-consuming, especially when coordinating multiple players. Solo play provides a time-efficient alternative, allowing gamers to enjoy a quick skirmish whenever they have a spare moment. This is particularly advantageous for those who want to experience the thrill of a tabletop game without committing to lengthy gaming sessions.
You can stay home and play a game immediately without worrying about packing up your miniatures, boxing up the terrain, and rolling up your mats. You can play a game in less time than it takes to drive to the game club!
5. Creative Expression
Solo play encourages creative expression in tabletop skirmish games. Players can craft personalised narratives, develop custom scenarios, and experiment with house rules without the need for group consensus. This creative freedom enables gamers to tailor the game to their preferences, fostering a sense of ownership and satisfaction.
You can do this to some degree in a group, but each player will most likely want to express their creativity in different ways. A good comparison is with computer games. For example, we play solo games a lot differently than we play multiplayer. In solo games, we follow the story arc, explore the environment more, and even add a role-playing element to our games. In multiplayer, most of our time will be spent taking out the enemy and building the most efficient load-outs to do it.
6. Solo Campaigns and Progression
Many tabletop skirmish games feature campaign systems that allow characters and factions to progress over time. Solo play is an ideal environment for running extended campaigns, as players can consistently revisit and evolve their stories without the logistical challenges posed by group scheduling.
Campaigns that play out over a few months can become tedious as players lose interest, cancel meet-ups at the last minute, or pull out after a few games. If you have a weekend free, you can devote it entirely to a two-day solo game session and play through all the scenarios in a campaign in one go!
7. Stress-Free Enjoyment
Having a mix of competitive and narrative-driven games can be fun, and playing with a diverse group will create these gaming opportunities. Some players prefer to avoid meeting in gatherings, though, especially if they are new to the game.
Attending a new gaming group full of people you haven't met can be a big deal. It's noisy, you don't know where anything is, you aren't aware of the protocols, and perhaps you still need to have a full comprehension of the rules. Playing solo removes this stress and allows you to go at your own pace.
8. Focussed Learning
Focus is a critical component for rapid learning, serving as the catalyst that accelerates the absorption and retention of information. When individuals concentrate their attention on a specific task or subject matter, they create a mental environment conducive to efficient learning.
Solo play can speed up the learning curve if we are learning a new tabletop skirmish game or, specifically, the rules for a new army or faction. Distractions are minimised, interruptions removed, and focus heightened, allowing us to grasp concepts more quickly, make connections between ideas, and reinforce newly acquired knowledge.
9. Rule Exploration
Rule exploration takes on a unique and rewarding dimension in solo play within tabletop skirmish games. Without the constraints of opponents waiting for their turn, solo players can delve deep into the intricacies of the game's rules at their own pace. This freedom allows for a comprehensive understanding of the mechanics, fostering a nuanced appreciation for the game's design.
You can experiment with alternative strategies, test the limits of specific rules, and discover fun synergies that might go unnoticed in a more competitive setting. Rule exploration in solo play becomes an adventure in itself, offering an opportunity to unravel the complexities of the game system, leading to a richer and more satisfying gaming experience.
10. Customised Difficulty
Customised difficulty adds an extra layer of engagement and satisfaction to solo play in tabletop skirmish games. One of the inherent advantages of playing alone is the ability to tailor the game's difficulty to match personal preferences and skill levels. Solo players can easily adjust various parameters such as the AI's intelligence, resource availability, or scenario challenges.
This adaptability ensures the game remains consistently challenging and enjoyable, striking the perfect balance between difficulty and entertainment. Whether seeking a casual and relaxing experience or a more intense strategic challenge, the solo player has the flexibility to fine-tune the difficulty, creating a personalised gaming environment that caters to individual preferences and enhances the overall enjoyment of the tabletop skirmish adventure.
The Benefits of Solo Play For Tabletop Skirmish Game Creators
Solo play in tabletop skirmish games provides us game creators with a powerful tool for honing the quality and appeal of our creations. The solo gaming experience acts as an invaluable play-testing ground, allowing us to scrutinise our game's mechanics, balance, and overall playability.
By personally engaging with the game in a solo context, we can identify potential flaws, ambiguities in rules, or areas where gameplay may be enhanced. This iterative process contributes to the refinement of the game, ensuring a polished and enjoyable experience for our players.
Embracing solo play broadens the game's market reach. While many tabletop games thrive on social interactions, a significant audience of gamers prefer solitary experiences. By designing games that cater to solo play (and, by extension, co-op play), creators tap into a diverse demographic, potentially expanding their customer base and increasing the game's overall success.
Solo play also encourages player creativity in ways that can benefit game creators. Individuals engaging in solo campaigns may develop unique strategies, storylines, or house rules. Game creators can leverage this player-generated content for inspiration when designing expansions, updates, or additional game elements. The community's contributions can enhance the richness of the game world and foster a sense of collaboration between creators and players.
In essence, the integration of solo play refines the game's design and contributes to a more inclusive gaming community. Game creators who acknowledge and support solo play recognise the diverse preferences within their player base, fostering a dynamic and responsive approach to game development that can lead to sustained success in the competitive tabletop gaming market.
The Benefits of Solo Play in Tabletop Skirmish Games
Solo play in tabletop skirmish games is not a departure from the traditional social aspects of tabletop gaming but a complementary experience offering unique advantages. From flexibility and convenience to enhanced immersion and strategic mastery, embracing solo play opens up new dimensions of enjoyment for enthusiasts of tabletop skirmish games.
So, whether you're a seasoned gamer looking for a solo challenge, a newcomer seeking a more accessible entry point, or a game creator looking for a different angle, solo play might just be what you are looking for.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the subject, so join in the conversation in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!
Look out for my new game, Population Z: Welcome to Huntsville, launching in January 2024.