Things I dislike in solo games (sometimes without even trying them)

I've been nagging about this and that for a while, dispersing my silly complaints over a series of Grumpies. Now I compiled them into a list, answering the question nobody asked me: 'what might keep you from buying or backing a game?' (besides a lack of funds). Nothing is set in stone, of course, and I may eat my words and change my mind in the future. But for the time being, when a game features one or more of the characteristics below, I am likely to say no, thanks.


I added some music to make the negative thoughts more palatable, although, who doesn't like curmudgeony lists? Between 'spread the love' and 'a curmudgeon's worst games' posts on BGG, the former shouldn't even be a clickable option.



1. Real time

We've talked about this before, but it dawned on me again thanks to the release of Pendulum, which, I hear, doesn't use time in the standard anxiety-inducing way. JW once made the remark that, if a designer chooses to create tension in a game by adding a timer, then the design probably isn't that good. Timers are artificial tension creators. The challenge is to get the player on the edge of their seat without these crutches. Sand timers should be merely decorative objects in professors' offices. Not to mention that the cheap plastic ones look awful.


2. Memory

I don't have a good memory, and there's nothing I can do to enhance it (take gingko biloba?). When a game requires that the player remembers the cards they played in previous turns, it doesn't reward skill. It rewards an innate ability mostly based on biology, like basketball is easier to play if you're tall. Okko: Oni Hunters is a game I refrained from backing because of this. Reveal a token. Memorize its place in the grid. Flip the token to the other side and try to remember where it was 2 hours later, after you've done 100 other in-game things. But of course the game had good artwork, and good artwork is a lotus. It makes you forget to check what the actual gameplay is like.


3. AI that works via die roll or if/then

I generally dislike automated opponents. I enjoy facing obstacles that the game is throwing at me, not a robot that tries to mimic my moves. I even prefer to play two sides than roll a die and let the AI steal a card from the market. How does that recreate what a human would do? I also don't like to follow if/then instructions. If x is this number, and if y card has been revealed, and if z spot is free, then the AI laughs in your face and gains ten VP. This is a) tedious to perform, and b) unfair. I know I'm in the minority, and most solo gamers love automas, so I'll just sigh and shut up.


4. Beat your own score

Here JW and I are in disagreement. His article on our site sounded convincing but, in practice, I'm not feeling it. Yes, I still occasionally play Palm Island and Orchard but I'm not 100% happy with them. Maybe because I never score exceptionally well, so it never