"That's... kinda sad."
"Won't your boyfriend play board games with you?"
"Why wouldn't you just play a video game?"
These are all actual comments I have received after telling people I am an avid solo board gamer. Although solo gaming is on the rise, it's not a universal thing. Yet.
For me, though, solo board gaming is a liberating experience. In fact, doing anything by myself is freeing. I've always been the sort of person who will take myself to dinner and a movie. But board gaming alone is particularly fantastic for several reasons:
1) I get to pick the game. The last two times my friends and I had game night, we spent most of it playing Munchkin. I adore my friends, but I honestly hate Munchkin. When I'm gaming by myself, I get to play anything I want, for as long as I want. I can even change my mind midstream and switch games if the mood strikes me.
2) I get to pick the time. My friends are busy people, and my boyfriend likes to do things on his own schedule. To me, "Sure, we can play Pathfinder this afternoon!" means that we will eat lunch and play Pathfinder. To my boyfriend, it means that we will eat lunch, go on several errands, go have a coffee, catch up on a TV show, realize we need to eat dinner, cook, eat, and THEN play Pathfinder. They say that true love waits, but I beg to differ!
3) I can let my imagination run wild. There is a lot of vulnerability in playing highly imaginative games with other people. I usually like that. But sometimes, when I play a solo game, I find the imaginative experience more immersive because I don't have to lay myself open to anyone else. Playing solo means that I can talk to myself, imagining crazy situations or conversations, and no one is there to judge me but the cats. (I have said some terrible things to the Genestealers of Space Hulk: Death Angel.)
4) I call the strategic shots. Solo games are a great way for me to test out strategies that I don't want to explain to or negotiate with other players. When playing alone, I can experience all the brain burn I want without feeling any pressure to rush or to compromise. I buy myself the time and space to test different game strategies until I feel satisfied.
5) My competitive instinct can come out. I have been highly competitive since birth, and it's taken me years to truly be a graceful loser (rather than pretend to be one). Even now, if you trash talk me enough, our game is going to get a lot more serious than a board game ought to be. Siphoning off some of that competitive drive while playing solo makes me a better gamer when I'm playing with other people.
Most of all, I game solo because I just like it. That's probably the best reason to do anything. But if you add up all of the specific reasons I provided, what you can probably conclude is that I also need an outlet to be selfish. Not only is playing alone satisfying on its own, but it puts me in a better frame of mind when playing with other people. Even if I spend International Tabletop Day playing Munchkin—again—I'll know that I can always come home and have it my way.