Games

The best solo board games

Traditionally a group activity, board games are a great way to spend an evening with friends and family, socializing and engaging in friendly competition. But sometimes assembling a group of adults with conflicting schedules can be difficult. Fortunately, more and more board games are being developed for solo play. From cooperative board games that scale down nicely to one player or let a single player play two hands, to board games designed solely for solo play, it’s official: it’s no longer weird to play a board game alone. So grab your favorite drink, tune in to a podcast or playlist, and open up one of these great single player games.

Dune: Empire

dune empire

Despite being one of the best strategy games of recent years, you might be surprised to find Dune: Imperium on this list as it really needs three or four players to shine. However, the need to include board games for two players led the designer to include an automated opponent, House Hagal. Despite being a fairly interactive game, House Hagal is easy to manage but still manages to block board space, steal resources and send troops to the area just like a real player. Solitaire pits you against two of them with different levels of difficulty, which feels much more satisfying than just playing for a high score and lets you experience this excellent game without involving your friends. Read our Dune: Imperium review for more information.

Gloomhaven

Gloomhaven
Gloomhaven: Lion's Maw

Perhaps the largest and most complicated game on this list, Gloomhaven is ideal for those who crave a grand fantasy adventure on the table. In this time-honored endeavor, you guide an adventurer through a sprawling fantasy world filled with dungeons and monsters. Card-driven tactical combat is at the heart of Gloomhaven, and you must carefully consider what to play from your hand each round. The fact that you can lose cards permanently adds significant weight to every decision, and the persistent world greatly differentiates your experience from others. Gloomhaven is a massive but personal game just begging to be explored over multiple sessions. If the scope and price are too big to play alone, consider the stripped down but still excellent prequel Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion. For more information on this standalone game, check out our Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion review

Mage Knight

Mage Knight

In the years since its release in 2011, Mage Knight has become synonymous with solo gaming. A sprawling fantasy epic by famed designer Vlaada Chvátil, Mage Knight is designed for 1-4 players but shines particularly well as a solitary experience. It’s a great choice if you’re in the mood to fight monsters, level up your character, and explore a fantasy environment. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time, though, as games can last up to three hours, and each round presents you with a puzzling series of actions that require a lot of tweaking.

Sherlock Holmes consulting detective

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

Step into the shoes of literature’s greatest detective in this board game equivalent of a crime thriller. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective includes a number of scenarios and fun props that really sell the experience. There is a map of London, an address book and a newspaper, each offering clues for tracing and suspects for questioning. However, be warned that this game is not holding your hand; Each adventure offers a small amount of building and exhibition, then sends you into town without much guidance, leaving you free to decide which places to visit and who to blame. This game gives you a chance to live up to Holmes’ reputation, which is a tall order considering how great the mysteries can be.

Under the falling sky

Under the falling sky

While solo options are fairly standard across most games these days, they don’t quite live up to the rare titles that dare to be solo only, such as Under Falling Skies. It’s a riff on Space Invaders as alien ships land ever closer to the base you’re trying to protect. Under the pressure of their advance, you must balance a limited pool of cubes to shoot them down, build your base, and research a definitive end to the alien menace. But there’s a nice catch: the higher the dice you use, the better the effect, and the faster the alien descends above you. With a variety of scenarios that can be rearranged into a campaign, this is a simple concept that will have you playing for a very long time.

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island

Robinson Crusoe adventures on the cursed island

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island places players as shipwreck survivors on an island actively trying to kill them. There are different characters to play as, each with different strengths and weaknesses. You will search for food, build and improve shelters and explore dangerous places on the island. The game includes rules for a solo variant, but the general consensus is that it’s easier for a single player to simply take on the role of more than one character. There’s a lot going on in Robinson Crusoe and the rich iconography can be a bit overwhelming, but those who endure will find a rewarding adventure that calls for trips back.

Dinosaur Island: Rawr N’ Write

Dinosaur Island: Rawr'n Write

Roll-and-write games, like co-op games, often do very well solo fares because, even in multiplayer, you’re all competing to make the most of the same set of dice. However, most are too quick and easy for an immersive solitaire experience. Dinosaur Island: Rawr N’ Write is longer and more complex than its competitors, but it pays off in deeper, more satisfying gameplay. Your dice rolls generate a variety of resources that you must carefully balance to build and run your Jurassic World-style theme park. They even draw the buildings on a grid and run tours, but beware: if your security isn’t up to scratch, you might end up with fewer tourists than when you started.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Though the prospect of facing off against a spooky horror alone might sound daunting, Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a thrilling and brilliant solo experience. The base game contains a small handful of scenarios that send you straight into the clutches of cosmic mysteries. You can use the suggested starter decks or create a custom one that focuses on your chosen investigator’s special abilities. The gameplay has you hopping from place to place looking for clues to advance the story while trying to hinder the deadly Mythos deck. Your investigator will inevitably take damage and acquire weaknesses over time that may affect future games in the campaign, making Arkham Horror: The Card Game one of the most themed games on this list.

cascade

cascade

While Cascadia is one of the very best family board games, at first glance it doesn’t seem to offer much to a single player. Sure, the wildlife theme is appealing. And the simple but addictive gameplay, where you choose pairs of random terrain tiles and animal markers to add to your wildlife sanctuary to meet a series of scoring patterns, is fun enough. But what makes it a solitaire game is the list of achievements at the end of the rulebook. These challenge you to approach the game with different settings and rule adjustments, trying to reach certain scoring thresholds. Easy at first, the level of difficulty soon increases, presenting you with many varied challenges that are extremely satisfying to tick off one after the other.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale

Cartographers is a roll-and-write game that replaces dice with cards and puts you in the role of a royal surveyor who wants to map uncharted lands on behalf of your queen. Each turn, you turn over a card that represents both a terrain type and a Tetris-like shape. You must draw this shape and its terrain on your grid map in a way that satisfies the random scoring conditions. The 16 possible goals include building a large contiguous village, completely filling rows and columns of your grid, and drawing forest tiles around the edge of the map. Be careful though, because you can be ambushed by monsters at any moment and forced to draw an awkward shape on the map, forcing you to improvise in the future.

Terraforming Mars

Terraforming Mars

In this hard Euro-style game, you’ll help make the surface of Mars hospitable to human life by increasing the oxygen levels in the atmosphere, raising the temperature from below freezing, and building man-made oceans to sustain life. This is done through a combination of resource management and tableau construction. You slip into the role of a mega corporation that wants to profit from mankind’s advance on the red planet. add In solo play, you race against the clock to maximize each of the three endgame parameters. Each turn you play new cards from your hand, which means your list of available actions grows until you have assembled an expansive tableau of action cards that can be combined with each other. It’s a very crunchy gaming experience that’s perfect for those who appreciate a good optimization puzzle. A number of expansion scenarios are also available, making Terraforming Mars one of the best solo experiences available.

ghost island

ghost island

Cooperative games are inherently great solo experiences. Due to the player-versus-the-board structure, co-ops easily allow one person to control two or more players. One of the best co-op games of recent years is Spirit Island, a game about protecting your land from waves of malicious colonizers. You control island spirits, each with their own deck of power cards that help destroy settlements and repair lands devastated by farming. The strong theme and combo-heavy card game combine to create one of the most robust co-operative experiences we’ve played. It also happens to be an ideal solo game.

Ball♥︎

Ball♥︎

This novel puzzle game has the seemingly impossible premise of recreating the stressful environment of a bullet hell shooter on the tabletop using a timer to increase the pressure. You randomly draw orbs from a bag onto an ever-filling grid, trying to manipulate placement rules and your character’s special abilities to match sample cards in your hand. You can then remove these orbs and hand them to the player next to you to escalate the tension. You’d imagine solo play would feel weak without this, but a clever rule tweak keeps increasing the pressure as the timer ticks down, requiring you to build bigger and bigger combos while trying to keep up. You can play for a high score or try to defeat a variety of evil bosses just like in a real video game.

https://www.ign.com/articles/best-solo-board-games The best solo board games

Fry Electronics Team

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