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A.I. and You (the Solo Gamer)

Wednesday Blogs


Welcome to another edition of the Wednesday Blogs! This week, I wax poetically about playing (mostly) alone in our hobby...

If you're like me, you spend a lot of time staring at some kind of screen during the week. Between your phone, your choice of tablet and your phone (and now even your fridge and your car) it's good to give your eyes a break. Enter board games!

Nothing like unfolding a board, shuffling the cards, rolling the dice and having a fun time with your friends as you each vie for the victory. Unless, of course, you can't get together with friends. As family and kids and life seem to get more and more in the way of gaming gatherings, I've found solace in solo games.

Whether it's the way a game was designed or a solo variant, being able to play with a party of 1 is what has sustained my gaming in the last decade or so. With some board games, this is a matter of having the A.I. act as a dummy player that simply is there to either act as a timer or as a way to slow you down so you can't just roll to an easy victory.

However, in sports games (and in other heavier games as well) it's not that simple. In order for you to feel like you've earned your victory, or suffered a well-earned defeat, the closer a game gets you to feel like you're playing against a smart and elusive A.I. the more enjoyment you'll get. Also, the more likely you'll want to break out the game again in the future.

Football (American Football) is a game that certainly lends itself to needing a capable "coach" on the other sidelines for you to make decisions against. If you're able to find some kind of loophole where a certain play works every time, you break your immersion and cheapen the experience. So when a game keeps you on your toes and genuinely surprises you with a call that surgically destroys your well crafted game plan is the pinnacle for a solo gamer.

I've found two games that do a great job of this and keep me coming back for more. Second Season from has been out for 20 years and the solo game has received a few tweaks along the way. The current version provides a quick but efficient opponent and I've lost more than a few games when I thought I had the game in the bag. With just a 1D6 roll and consulting one chart, you get the A.I. call for offense and defense (yes you could even have the game play against itself!) and then you can call the game the same as you would in a head to head match-up.

The other, a fairly recent addition to my collection, is Breakaway Football. Each team in the game comes with a solo A.I. sheet that details how they will call defense (depending on what offensive formation you call) and then by shuffling their offensive cards (and discarding every other one so you can't look ahead to what their next call will be) you'll be throwing your headset down when you think you have the perfect defense called but instead the A.I. calls the perfect play against you.

So, if you're looking to get into a sports game but don't have a group to get together with, it's a great time to jump in now without that worry. You'll find there's lots of other great games as well that lend themselves to solo play, but that also play as well head to head. So get out there, make a call, cross your fingers, and beat that A.I. back to the stone age!


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