Solitary Happiness – multiplayer solitaire games’ popularity (Topic Discussion)

An interesting question Phil Gross recently asked is why low-interaction games are so popular these days. Even though I’m not really sure whether these types of games are actually popular nowadays, I do wonder why people like games with very little player interaction. So in this article, I want to look at the attraction of games that are either completely multiplayer solitaire or provide very little opportunity for players to interfere with each other’s game.

Personally, I love games that have a good amount of player interaction, both negative and positive. Mind you, I only love these types of games when there are at least three of us playing. Especially games with negative interactions in a two-player setting often feel too aggressive to me. If a game forces me to apply a negative effect on another player, when that effect has no benefit to me and there is only one other player in the game, it’s particularly stupid, in my view. In a three or four-player game that negative effect could be applied to whoever is in the lead or in second place and then it makes sense. When it’s just the person sitting opposite you and you have no choice in the matter, then it’s just mean.

Don’t Be Mean

I suppose that’s actually one reason why some people love multiplayer solitaire games where nobody can be mean to anyone else around the table. One person in our games group loves games where nobody can interfere with them. I think generally speaking, they don’t like meanness in games, not only when it is directed at them. They aren’t particularly comfortable having to choose another player to negatively affect in some way.

I guess they prefer games where everyone just pits their wits against everyone else. They don’t like it when there are ways to trip other players up. It’s a bit like running a race. Whoever is the best runner wins. Doing something to slow other competitors down is not allowed and unsportspersonlike. It’s the same for multiplayer solitaire board games. You just do your own thing and develop the best possible strategy to win. Nobody is allowed to interfere and force you to change your approach.

There is another reason though. That player in our games group who hates direct player interaction is also usually the person who wins games. They are very good at working out how a game functions under the hood. They can see where points come from and how to get them. That makes them a bit of a target in our group. However, even when two other players gang up on them, they still often manage to win. So we feel we’re right in being a bit mean to them. Even when we join forces, we usually still lose. Understandably, that player doesn’t like being picked on and therefore prefers multiplayer solitaire games.

Me Time

The advantage of games without player interaction is that you can really focus on improving your strategy. Game after game you’ll have learned something new. You’re likely to get better every time. You even get a chance to try out weird and wonderful ideas and see how they fare. I suppose that’s not always true of every game without player interaction. It will depend on how variable or random these games are, but in principle, they are better positioned to let you really focus on your own way of playing.

a close-up of the player boards with the powerlines and their pip values, as well as the differently coloured workers that represent the dice
a close-up of the player boards with the powerlines and their pip values, as well as the differently coloured workers that represent the dice

Multiplayer solitaire games can also allow you to get into your zone. They can become meditative and allow you to switch off. I suppose that’s one reason why I don’t usually like these types of games. When I play with friends, the social element is important to me. If I just focus on my own game and don’t interact with anyone else around the table, not even within the context of the game, then there is something missing for me. However, if you are not comfortable in a social setting, then a game where you just do your own thing within the magic circle of the game is probably really useful.

I suppose that’s one of the reasons why many people love solo gaming. There is nobody else who will mess up their plans, other than the game itself. They can just do their own thing and focus on playing. It’s probably even more of an immersive experience in a way. Without table talk or other people trying to talk to you, you can really dive into the setting and fully experience the story that the game is trying to tell.

Cooperative Games

So far, I haven’t explicitly said that I was talking about competitive games. I would say that the terms “multiplayer solitaire” and “player interaction” usually apply to these types of games. However, if you don’t like player interaction, especially negative one, then maybe you’ll like cooperative games. These aren’t multiplayer solitaire games as such, but there is certainly no direct player interaction, at least not any negative one.

At the end of the day, solo and cooperative games are really closely related. I know that not every solo game works as well with more than one person, just like not every cooperative game provides the same experience when played by yourself. However, there is certainly a lot of overlap. So, I would say that if you don’t like player interaction, then solo games and cooperative games are something you should probably try.

I actually quite like cooperative games. It offers me a mix of social interaction while also allowing me to focus on my own game. I know that everyone around the table is on my side. We’re all trying to defeat the game. Nobody is waiting for an opportunity to be mean to anyone else. However, there usually is no time in cooperative games where you can just focus on your own game and nothing else. So, you probably won’t find the meditative element that solo or competitive multiplayer solitaire games can provide.

How About You?

As you can tell, I found it hard to understand why people hate player interaction so much. I hope I was able to identify some of the reasons why multiplayer solitaire games are so attractive to some people. However, I do wonder what you think. How do you feel about player interaction in games? Do you relish games where people have to be a bit ruthless and sometimes mean to each other? Or do you much prefer a harmonious game? Does it depend on the people you’re with? What is it that you enjoy about games? As always, please share your thoughts in the comments below. It would be great to hear what you have to say.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Epic Intro 2017 by Sascha Ende
Free download:
License (CC BY 4.0):
Artist website:

Increased Cooperation – the popularity of cooperative games (Topic Discussion)

I always used to be very much a competitive player. Pitting my wit against other people was my thing. I would usually lose games and still do, but it was always a lot of fun. Cooperative games really only came into my life when our daughter was young enough to play games with us that weren’t just roll-and-move. I remember our first game of Forbidden Island, which we all really enjoyed and played many times since. So in this article, I want to explore why cooperative games have become so popular in recent years.

From Competition to Collaboration

Cooperative games are clearly quite different to competitive ones. The gaming experience is quite different between them. Instead of pitting players against each other in some form of a race for victory, cooperative games allow players to team up and try to achieve a shared objective. Rather than fighting each other, people play against the game itself. Everyone has to work together and collaboratively to achieve success.

There are many types of cooperative games available now. Many of you will be familiar with escape-room-style games, where you try to solve a series of puzzles. In a similar vein are murder mystery games. The game that, in my mind, has really cemented the concept of cooperative games in our hobby is Pandemic, where everyone tries to battle a global virus outbreak while also working on finding a cure. Most recently, I’ve played Castle Panic, where you battle against a seemingly never-ending horde of orcs, goblins and other creatures.

So there is a lot of choice, but whatever it is that you like, cooperative games shift the dynamics from competition to collaboration. Cooperative games create a sense of unity and camaraderie. You have to strategize together and pool the group’s skills and abilities.

Fostering Connection and Social Bonds

The emphasis in cooperative games on teamwork promotes a cooperative spirit, encouraging players to support and uplift each other, fostering a positive and inclusive gaming experience. If done well, cooperative games have the ability to foster meaningful connections and strengthen social bonds among players. Unlike competitive games, where winning is all that matters and sometimes people end up being lost in their own thoughts, cooperative games prioritize communication, cooperation and shared decision-making.

A great cooperative game encourages players to actively listen to one another and collaborate on finding solutions. Cooperative games work in similar ways to party games. They allow everyone around the table to get a better understanding of each other’s strengths, weaknesses and general character. As a group, you will become closer. The shared victories and defeats experienced throughout the game build a sense of shared history and camaraderie.

Cooperative games can also promote inclusivity and accessibility. The collaborative nature of these games encourages everyone to actively participate, regardless of their skill level or gaming experience. Everyone contributes their strengths and as a team, everyone can help each other. Cooperative games can also nurture a sense of agency and empowerment. Each player has a vital role to play in the team’s success. Their contributions are valued and recognized, which fosters a sense of ownership and agency. It empowers players to take an active role and shape the game’s outcome. So while you’re working as a team, everyone also can get a sense of personal achievement.

the Pandemic game board with a number of components in the foreground and the game box in the background
Pandemic can encourage collaboration in the face of adversity

From Collaboration to Quarterbacking

At the same time, there is always the risk of one player taking over a cooperative game. It’s in the nature of these games to give everyone a voice, but at the same time, it’s also very easy for one person to overrule everyone else. When one player is more knowledgeable or their specific skillset is particularly useful in the game, they might feel and quite rightly so, that they know best. The rest of the group may willingly defer most of the decision making to them. At this point, the cooperative game becomes a solo game.

Some cooperative games try to prevent this by limiting the publicly available information, limiting the types and amount of communication possible, overloading players with information or a large decision space so that they have no choice but to focus on their turn only or by some other means. If done well, these cooperative games can still work really well, but they often start to stray away from a collaborative experience into the realms of a multi-player solitaire game with a common goal.

Therefore I think it’s up to the group of players to choose the game that’s right for them and their character mix. Additionally, alpha players, who like to take over a game, should learn to hold back and give everyone a voice and allow them to make their own decisions. There are also games that are semi-cooperative, which can be a better fit for some groups. Ultimately though, some groups just don’t suit cooperative games and that is absolutely fine. Not every game is for everyone.

Embracing the Cooperative Gaming Experience

However, I have really started to love cooperative games. I know that some of my friends don’t like these types of games and that is fine. At the same time, cooperative games played with the right group create an amazing experience. By shifting the focus from competition to collaboration, these games create a unique space for fostering connection and promoting inclusivity. Whether you’re embarking on an epic quest, solving a challenging puzzle or saving the world together, cooperative board games offer an immersive and rewarding experience that transcends individual victories.

What About You?

So what about you? Have you ever played a cooperative game before? How was it? Do you like them? If you’ve never played a cooperative game before, would you be willing to try one? If not, what’s stopping you? As always, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. It would be great to hear what you have to say about this genre of games.

Useful Links

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

Main Music:
Out of the Skies, Under the Earth by Chris Zabriskie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

Swords vs Words – the popularity of blogs versus other media (Topic Discussion)

Jamey Stegmaier‘s blog post “Is There a Future for Written Reviews?” inspired Adam Richards of Punchboard to write a little post on his Substack to discuss the visibility of the written word compared to video or audio content. That, in turn, inspired me to share my thoughts on the topic and as always, I invite your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of this article.

Let me set the scene. Jamey‘s article came about after the release of Stonemaier‘s latest game Apiary. While looking through BGG, he found a thread lamenting the lack of written reviews of the new game being available before its release. I’ve not read the thread myself, but the main thrust seems to be aimed at the fact that advance copies only went to video reviewers or podcasters. The poster would have loved to see written reviews as well. Jamey confirms that the company hasn’t sent advance copies to blogs for a couple of years now, but concedes that maybe in the name of diversity, they should change that. He accepts that there is clearly a significant amount of demand for the written word.

Adam, in his Substack post, picks up on this idea and ponders what blogs can do to become more visible and more interesting to publishers as part of their marketing efforts. So while video and podcast sites publicly share views, likes and other stats, blogs don’t usually display that information and even when they do, the statistics aren’t independently vetted, which makes it harder for publishers to trust the information they’re given by bloggers.

Video and Audio

So, as an avid blogger myself, I thought I’d try and wrestle with some of these topics. I don’t think I’ll have answers for everything, but at least I can share my opinion.

First off, the written word is very important. Even Jamey admits that he is better at processing his thoughts in written form. All of the really great video reviews will have been created from a written script or at least a rough, written outline of how the video will play out.

At the same time, I love watching videos or listening to podcasts, often more so than reading an article. I’m not a fast reader. Most books, even short ones, take me many, many weeks to finish. So I’m not surprised that video reviews are more popular than written ones. Video reviews have the advantage that you can show a game’s components, maybe even offer a quick playthrough or otherwise visually illustrate your point. A lot of us, me included, are very visual creatures. It’s a powerful medium.

Even audio reviews tend to be more popular than the written word. My written reviews and other articles have now been available in audio format for quite some time. That was mainly to give people with vision problems the option to listen to what I have to say, without needing to revert back to an artificial voice created by a screen reader. Yet, everyone keeps telling me how they love listening to my podcast episodes, which are short and informative at the same time. The spoken word is just more appealing. You can listen to my writing while commuting, doing the dishes or going for a walk.

The Importance of the Written Word

Yet, there is something to say in favour of the written word. As I alluded to earlier, the best video reviews are based on a written script. Many popular board game video reviewers could easily do away with video and what they have to say would be just as important and valuable. Many of these video reviewers would do just as well in audio-only form and to be honest, even if they were transcribed, they would still be amazing. Of course, the order of popularity in platforms goes from blogs having the smallest audience, to podcasts somewhere in the middle and then videos with the most views on average.

At the same time, my blog gets a good number of visitors every week. I probably can’t compete with the most popular video channels, but it’s not bad. I wonder if I would attract more followers if I simply read my articles to the camera and added a little B-roll and other bits. The message would still be the same, but I would now appeal to more people: video watchers, audio listeners and blog readers. The problem is, as you can probably guess, the amount of time that goes into creating video content, versus audio and writing. I can probably write an article in about an hour. Recording and editing it takes probably about the same time. If I had to video everything and edit it all together, it’d probably be more like 5 to 10 hours. A huge difference and an extra amount of time I simply don’t have.

a close-up of a dictionary page for the word "focus" (Photo by Romain Vignes on Unsplash)
(Photo by Romain Vignes on Unsplash)

Making Words Relevant

So the question is what I can do to attract more people without reverting to video. While I could add a little counter to every post on my blog that shows views, that figure isn’t necessarily trusted. One thing I do think publishers find important when deciding where to send their valuable advance review copies is the amount of interaction I get on the blog. Every time someone comments, it shows they not only read what I wrote, but also cared about it enough to respond. A publisher will trust comments more than any readership figures I email them. Not only that, a golden rule in marketing is not to go for the largest amount of followers or the most likes, but to find those accounts that get the most comments for each and every one of their posts.

I always love it when I get an email that says someone commented on an article and prompts me to review the response and approve it. At the core, that’s why I write on this blog. It’s not so much about validation, but more about having written something that stirred something in someone else. Hearing when people tell me that they like my blog is wonderful. When I get two or more comments on an article, it’s amazing. It’s about connecting with people who want to share their thoughts with me. Having encouraged people to let me know when they agree with me or have different thoughts on a topic is really touching. It’s about having a conversation and as human beings, communicating is so very important and goes to the core of who we are.

So, yes, if you want to make this blog more valuable and meaningful, then please comment and share your thoughts. If one of my written reviews has convinced you to buy a game that you really enjoy, then please let me know. If one of my topic discussion articles has made you ponder something, then comment and say so. Let’s start the conversation.

What About You?

Depending on whether you read this article or listened to the audio version, your answer will probably be different. However, I do wonder whether you prefer the written word over audio or video. What is your favourite medium and why? What do video reviews give you that written ones don’t? How do podcasts fit into this? Please do share your thoughts in the comments below. As you have just heard, I love to hear from you.

Useful Links

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

Music by AShamaluevMusic.


These are the songs I listened to while I was writing this topic discussion article: