While multiplayer board games can give you the enjoyment of hanging out with your friends and family, and all the social benefits you reap from those kinds of interactions face to face, instead of being in front of a computer screen...

What benefits does a physical implementation of a board game offer a solo player, that cannot be better implemented in software? (Is there something that software cannot implement better?)

For all those single player game enthusiast, what reason would you play a physical version of a solitaire game, if a computer implementation existed?

(Note: Please no "It doesn't require batteries" comments)

  • This question seems to me to be overly broad and perhaps not "based on actual problems you face" ... and based on the last note, it's perhaps more of a game design question (What features should I include in a computer implementation of a board/card game?), which would make it seem out of place here. Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 19:40
  • @DaveDuPlantis: "If a given game exists in physical and computer versions, why might I choose the physical one?"
    – Cascabel
    Commented Feb 11, 2012 at 4:26
  • @Jefromi, if it were worded that way, I would use that as the basis for my vote ... but with that wording, it would seem to be a form of shopping recommendation, and thus I would vote to close as off-topic. Commented Feb 11, 2012 at 18:46
  • @DaveDuPlantis: The question doesn't have to be precisely worded that way for that to be a clear example of the "actual problems" that the question addresses. And either way, it's a great example of a good shopping question. See blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/qa-is-hard-lets-go-shopping The usual problem is that shopping recommendations aren't valid everywhere or at all times (product availability). That's not at all the case here - this is the kind that's valid forever (or at least until computers become full virtual environments).
    – Cascabel
    Commented Feb 11, 2012 at 20:20
  • @Jefromi, to me there are two clear differences: the Photography question asks about a specific task (taking low-light photos) and has reasonably objective criteria (photo quality). This question is not as narrow in scope and doesn't focus on an area that provides objective criteria for us to use. Still, that is just my personal view; the community seems unlikely to weigh in on either side (no close votes/few upvotes since I weighed in), so I doubt the question will be closed. Commented Feb 11, 2012 at 20:59

3 Answers 3


A lot of this really applies to all games, not just single-player ones.

Computer versions have limited interfaces: small screen, limited controls.

This is the biggest reason for me. It's pretty much impossible, with current technology, for a computer game to provide a comfortable view of a table-sized board and components, or for it to make it really easy to grab a small object out of that landscape. It's a bit of an extreme example, but take a game like Arkham Horror (which can be played solo in various ways). Imagine dealing with that on a computer screen, even a huge one. (There's actually a Vassal module for it - the interface definitely could be improved a lot, but it still gives you an idea of the issues faced.)

Physical versions are more intuitive and satisfying.

Even when things are of a size that's possible to fit on a screen, I usually find that "physical interfaces" much more comfortable. There's just something about physically seeing and moving objects, and having at least a little bit of a third dimension to them, that makes it a lot easier on my mind. I'm often frustrated by a feeling that things are somehow trapped in two dimensions on a screen.

Physical games are easier to customize.

If there's for whatever reason an issue with a game, it's a lot easier to fix it by drawing on a card or adding some more tokens if it's a physical game, or just changing the rules in a way that a computer version might not let you.

Board games have been optimized as board games.

There's a bit of a circular nature to the question. These games were designed to be physical, trying to take advantage of everything there is to offer in the format, and to minimize disadvantages. Electronic games are a different format, and hypothetical optimal games in that format (even confining ourselves to a similar category, turn-based things, and so on) will not end up being the same games.

I'm not trying to suggest that these reasons always justify choosing a physical game - there are a lot of things computers can do that physical games can't (e.g. instantly shuffle an enormous deck) - but that seems to be outside the scope of the question.

  • 1
    A very articulate explanation. I will emphasize, just as you say, that some of these factors are somewhat subjective. I often prefer the computer interface since there is no set up or teardown, no pieces for my cat to knock off, and no storage. But there is soemthing to be said for playing physically, with the tactile aspects, especially for something like Go. Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 23:56
  • Another small comment on the interface size. Board games in their physical version are easier to encompass, but only when you port them 1to1 to the screen. For example, if you would like to display all the cards built in 7 wonders on a screen, you would need a enormous monitor. But if you would just show the money/military/production/knowledge/etc with some symbols and numbers, allowing in-depth analysis/display with a simple click, it would be actually easier than manually checking what resources and at what price can you buy from your neighbours
    – K.L.
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 11:20

There are three things that physical solo games have that computer implementations don't:

  • The larger interface
  • tactile interaction (the feel of the bits, the ability to handle them
  • the ability to houserule as seen fit

Further, if you have ever seen children with boardgames they don't know or don't like, they will gleefully repurpose the pieces... and create new games from them.

  • 3
    I can't help but feel that you've essentially summarized three of my paragraphs as bullet points. I've gone ahead and emphasized those points in my answer, since there is certainly value in quick-to-read answers. Hopefully you don't see that as copying.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 1:42
  • 1
    I didn't bother reading yours. For something so simple, the wall of text is a turn off.
    – aramis
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 22:36
  • @Jefromi aramis has a point.
    – dwjohnston
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 21:28
  • @dwjohnston Well, okay, I went ahead and edited it to be even more clear. But I still believe it's worth explaining one's answers, and strongly prefer my answer to this one. Other voters seem to as well, which would seem to suggest that "I didn't bother reading yours" was not the most constructive attitude to take about my answer, reasonable points or otherwise.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 22:12
  • @Jefromi I think your edit good.
    – dwjohnston
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 22:14

In addition to the other answers given, I'll offer:

Physical board games don't require a computer, or electricity.

This can be advantageous if you are travelling or camping.

  • A small board game will be more portable than a laptop computer. (Though perhaps not a smartphone)
  • A board game will never require electricity, which is good if you are camping in an area without electricity, or at an airport where you can't find a powerpoint.
  • Board games can be used in areas where computers aren't allowed. eg. high security environments.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .