Under Falling Skies enemy ships

The Rise of Modern Solo Board Gaming

Solo board gaming, once a niche within a niche, has exploded in the past decade. Just a few years ago, you might have hesitated to proclaim yourself as a solo gamer, but not anymore. How did this surge in popularity happen? Let’s start with the broader world of board games as a whole.

Modern Board Gaming

We’ve come a long way since Monopoly! Settlers of Catan (now called Catan) debuted in 1995, marking one of the pioneering modern board games that ignited people’s interest in the hobby. In 2000, Scott Alden created Boardgamegeek.com, the ultimate board game site for bringing gamers together.

During this time, board games began offering various captivating themes and engaging mechanics. Social media played a crucial role in this board game renaissance, coupled with a rising appetite for non-digital forms of entertainment. Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms have made it easier for designers to enter the board game industry.

Over the last decade, tabletop gaming gradually became mainstream.

Cooperative Games with Solo Possibilities

I stumbled upon “modern” board gaming a decade ago. Like many of you, I quickly collected a treasure trove of exciting games I couldn’t wait to play with family and friends. Yet, it was disheartening when I couldn’t find willing companions to play with as often as I’d hoped.

Then, in 2008, cooperative games like Pandemic hit the scene, and gamers everywhere realized that many cooperative games could be enjoyed solo, thanks to a bit of two-handed ingenuity (yay for the Medic and Scientist roles!). That’s why plenty of cooperative games are featured on this blog.

A renewed interest in modern solo board gaming emerged, inspiring people to adapt their multiplayer games for solo play. It wasn’t long before game designers caught on and began adding solo modes to their creations. Some designers even crafted pure solitaire-only games!

Growth of Solo Gaming Community

A significant milestone for the solo community was the creation of the 1 Player Guild by Albert Hernandez (BGG user fractaloon), created on BGG in April of 2012, just over ten years ago! Today, the 1PG boasts over 19,000 members and is now the largest guild on BGG.

Shortly after, r/soloboardgaming emerged on Reddit, attracting nearly 35,000 members. Meanwhile, the Facebook group “Solo Board Gamers” has grown to 75,000 members.

Across various social media platforms, vibrant solo gaming communities thrive, offering spaces to share games, photos, and boundless enthusiasm.

Solo gaming was on the rise, though it had yet to capture the spotlight fully. I only stumbled upon modern solo gaming about five years ago, and it hadn’t become a significant part of my life then.

Pandemic Solitude

Then, in 2020, the world was struck by the COVID-19 pandemic, ushering in an era of profound isolation. As a result, some gamers looked at the games on their shelf and started playing them solo. Game designers stepped up by offering free solo modes for their existing games or even creating new solo games you could print out and play.

As a result, today, we’ve almost come to expect new games to offer a solo mode that isn’t just tacked on. The market is teeming with solo games or games “best-played solo.”

There’s a solo game catering to nearly every niche imaginable. Who would have thought you could find yourself blasting alien ships from the skies, negotiating the release of hostages, or fiercely defending your pristine island from human invaders?

The Allure of Modern Solo Board Gaming

What draws us to the world of solo board gaming? It’s the freedom, flexibility, and opportunity for deep immersion. When you play solo, you set the pace, free from analysis paralysis from yourself or others.

There’s no quarterbacking to dampen the enjoyment, no anxiety about sore losers or boastful winners. It’s just you, taking time to relax, strategize, and thoroughly savor everything the game offers.

Solo board gaming with Friday - photo by Kamio
Solo board gaming with Friday – photo by Kamio

Join the Solo Movement!

The surge in modern solo board gaming has given rise to an array of fantastic games and fostered a vibrant community of solo gamers. Online forums, social media groups, content creators, discords, websites and blogs provide avenues to connect, share experiences, and discover new solo gaming gems.

Additionally, solo gamers design and share their fan solo variants and creative monthly challenges on their favorite games.

So, though you may game alone, you don’t have to feel alone! Like the 1 Player Guild motto: “Together, We Game alone.” It’s a testament to the inclusive and welcoming nature of the solo gaming community.

So, What’s Your Modern Solo Gaming Story?

What draws you to solo gaming? Is it the flexibility to play on your schedule, the challenge of mastering complex games on your own, or the sense of accomplishment that comes with overcoming solo gaming challenges? Do you belong to any solo board gaming communities?

Share your solo stories and insights in the comments below!

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