Is Solo Play a Viable Alternative?
It may or not be a well known fact that some predominately club and tournament players play solo,
as is the inverse of that statement. But can solo be a viable alternative as the main or only focus of
the hobby. Most club players would be more likely to disagree and say it’s a branch of the hobby
that they can hop on and off when it suits them, maybe for a little practice or even nostalgia.
Predominately solo players would all tend to join “ayes have it” camp.
Unlike Clubs and Tournaments, Solo play can be picked up when time allows or the mood takes
you, no travelling involved, that alone would never make it a viable alternative, but add into the mix
the amount of people who want to play but due to their circumstances or commitments, find it hard
to seek out clubs, or others to get to play, solo can then become a viable alternative as the main
focus, and for some the only focus that is possible. There are also players that find playing solo
helps by giving them a release from the stress of life, and find it therapeutic to immerse themselves
into a solo world for a while.
But It Has Its Problems
It’s easy to say that solo is a viable alternative but it has it’s problems, rules, tactics, are the main
things that spring to mind.
Two player rules as laid out don’t really work, and in my opinion could become frustrating and
boring if you try to apply the official rules to solo play. Any solo game of Subbuteo basically needs
some kind of artificial Intelligence, but its an AI that doesn’t flick the ball. This AI for me is what the
team without the ball can do, determining how and when they can interact. So a team can block,
reposition themselves, and only react some way, when my rules allow them to do so. It gives me a
method where I’m concentrating on controlling the attack but allowing the defence to make it
difficult without the need to do the impossible of trying to out think myself, and all this needs to be
simple and balanced.
In essence I had to change rules to achieve this, in ways that may be a little unconventional to non
solo players, and even to other solo players.
Ways to Achieve This
One way I found and have incorporated within my solo rules, is certain things a team can do, can
only be done if they have a player closer to the ball than their opponents, a principle I feel, that
makes decision making a little easier. For example, a through pass into the shooting area can set
up a shot, and if the shooter is closer to the ball the defence cannot block. Or if a keeper makes a
save and the ball comes out of the 6 yard box, possession goes to the side closest to the ball, (this
rule has actually appeared in the official rules of the 70’s), and that’s just a couple of examples by
applying just one principle.
The Blocking Conundrum
Blocking is another area that can cause a conundrum for solo players, when to do it, how many to
allow are usually the main questions solo players ask, and it’s a question I’ve asked myself many
times in the past. There’s no right answer here, what suits one player may not suit another. From a
personal viewpoint I used various methods until I arrived at my current choice. I was watching Alan
Crampton playing out his Solo World Cup on YouTube, and noticed he only blocked before a shot,
at the time I must admit I dismissed this as something that didn’t suit my game. Since then I’ve had
a change of heart and tried it as a way of reducing the goal count without reducing the chances.
With some modification to Alan’s original rule I found a way of getting what I needed, a simple
balanced method of blocking, without breaking up play.
Rules are Just a Part of It
I could go on and on about rules for solo games, but I’m sure you can see from the above, one has
to adapt rules and ideas to suit your playing style, preferred tactics, even your skill level, to make
the experience enjoyable. But there’s more to it than that for most solo players.
Most solo players want games to be as competitive as possible, and just playing a series of
friendlies doesn’t always make for competitive play, so we play leagues, and cups, with actual or
fictitious teams, join solo leagues like the ISSL, or maybe like myself have the odd tournament with
other solo players, on your own pitch, with games played to you own rules, when your required to
play one, and your opponent can be anywhere in the world. I play a tournament with a guy 350
miles away, four teams from each of our respective solo leagues qualify for an Inter League
Competition at the end of the season. Simply put our teams are drawn against each other, we then
play all four matches on a home and away basis then aggregate the scores to find out which teams
progress. All my matches are played to my rules, and vice versa for my remote opponent. We
reveal the results at the same time and make the draw for the next round.
One drawback to playing this way is the reliance on all parties involved being as unbiased as
possible, but solo players are a canny lot, they realise that winning is not what it’s all about, it’s not
about beating an opponent it’s the teams on the baize that matter, your opponent is just putting an
amount of randomness into the encounter, and an element of surprise. One team will eventually
win, but all the players are winners in their own way.
There are many Facebook groups out there, that support solo play, and I’ve yet to find one that
doesn’t welcome a fellow soloist, and all their members are willing to offer help with the game, and
share ideas, solo is a lone pursuit, but you don’t have to be lonely whilst pursuing it.
And There’s More
Solo Leagues, and actually playing are just a part of solo play, there’s the collecting, modelling,
research, the record keeping that some players enjoy. Using whatever equipment they want, in
anyway they see fit. Formulating methods and systems to simulate football, such as home
advantage, or maybe the odd cup shock. Not only does solo play become a viable game in itself, it
becomes a hobby in which there’s always something different to discover.
But like all things it’s not for everyone, some players just don’t get it, as they prefer to play against
an opponent, to challenge themselves. I get that, I’ve been there myself in the past, and enjoyed
every minute of it. Nowadays my needs are less competitive, probably due to my years, and I find
solo play just as rewarding, and without it I don’t think that I would still be playing as much as I do
Viable or Just Different
At the end of the day we all, Club, Tournament, Casual, and Solo players alike have one thing in
common, we flick little plastic men at a ball which in real life would be as big as a chest of drawers
with the object being to score goals, with the aim of simulating a football match as closely as
possible, by whatever rules we choose to play that allow that to happen.
To me all forms of the game are viable, just as they are different, and we can all hop on and off the
bus anywhere along the journey, for some it will be a destination, for others it will be a stopover, it’s
our choice. That choice however shouldn’t define us, or put us in a box, we’re all players
fundamentally playing the same game, the rules may differ but the enjoyment is the same. I have
the utmost respect for all forms of the game, and however anyone chooses to play it. It’s this unity
from diversity that helps to keep the game alive today, and will hopefully ensure it’s future.