Have you ever played board games?
And I don’t mean Taboo, Twister, or, heaven forbid, chess.
Alright, wait, just to be clear, I have nothing against chess – played it lovingly throughout my whole childhood. But a board game these days means something else entirely.
Or rather, something more than a squared board and 32 figures.
A modern board game can be 2 meters wide, detailed, with little figures and special dices. Or it can be compact, small, with intricate design and hidden treasures. It can even be a simple set of cards – but with quirky tasks and unexpected twists.
The point is, nowadays you can find practically anything you want among the board games.
And trust me, if you try a good game once, you won’t be able to resist another round! Of course, if the game suits you and you’re in good company.
But a good company can also mean just yourself, right?
Yes, when you hear the words “board game”, you probably imagine two or four players, all settled around a large board, exchanging jokes or thinking through the next move.
But some of us are introverts. Or don’t have many friends. Or have no time to collect the needed amount of people. Or just stuck at home, in the middle of a pandemic, oof, can you imagine that?
It can’t stop you from playing, though!
As I said, you can find anything you want – including a whole collection of solo board games to play all by yourself. And today I decided to compile such a set for you.
But first, let’s talk about…
Why Would You Need a Solo Board Game
Alright, first of all, they’re cool, okay?
Some of you may still think that it’s something boring, and lengthy, and no fun – and it is. If you don’t like reading rules, paying attention to details, sitting in one place for too long, or gaming is just not your thing.
(Although I have a couple of friends who, despite not being bothered with anything above, still like to play board games, so, see for yourself.)
But if you’d like to play with your imagination, explore new worlds and interpretations, upgrade your cognitive skills, and strengthen your brain – all the while having fun! – you’re in for a treat.
Playing board games is exactly the type of hobby you need to relax and train your brain at the same time. Sounds good for a self-care plan, what do you think?
Also, the holidays are coming, so why not treat yourself? If you live on your own and in need of something to spend cozy winter nights with, a solo board game is a great option!
Or maybe you know an introvert who, in turn, likes to spend their cozy winter nights alone? It’s gonna be a great present for them!
Trust me, I played Arkham and Scythe on my own multiple times, and sometimes it’s even better than with partners. At least you don’t have to explain every rule all over again, or remind other players that it’s their turn, or “no, no, don’t turn that card yet, it’s- ah, never mind”.
But if playing solo still doesn’t sound good to you, fear not – every game on this list has multiplayer versions!
What can I say, it’s board games.
Oh, and as a side-note – each description contains links and pictures to Amazon (affiliate) and BoardGamesGeek. The latter is like a Wikipedia for board games, in case you’d like to learn more.
Alright, now we’re all set up, are you ready to play?
The game takes place in Arkham, a fictional town from H. P. Lovecraft’s stories. Here you play as one of the Investigators trying to stop a horrible monster, an Ancient One, from taking over the town(and the rest of the world, accordingly).
As an Investigator, you have to run all over the town, collect clues, have encounters in every location, and fight monsters. Apart from that, you can get through the gates into Other Worlds where you’ll have to come across, well, who knows what.
I’ve already included a small ode to that game in another post, but ah, I really love it!
It’s beautiful, it’s immersive, it’s detailed and made with care, it’s based on Lovecraftian mythos, and it’s suitable for playing solo! What else is possibly needed?
But of course, it’s not as perfect as I’m painting it.
There are a lot of detailed rules to get through – you don’t have to memorize them, the rulebook is always available, but eventually, you’ll have to.
Also, it’s big. Both in terms of size and in terms of cards and tokens. When you lay it out fully, it takes quite a lot of space (but still far from the biggest on this list).
Although for me, personally, it makes it all the more immersive. A bunch of cards and 10 inches board won’t make you feel the same.
Amazon: Arkham Horror [aff.]
BoardGameGeek: Arkham Horror (Third Edition) (2018)
The two games look similar from the first glance: you still have to play as an Investigator, battle against the Ancient One, travel from location to location, have encounters, and so on and so on.
At the same time, though, they are different.
You are not in a little town anymore – you can travel all over the world, all the way to Antarctica! However, you can’t get into the Other Worlds anymore, that’s a bummer.
There are also additional Mysteries you have to resolve to win, Spells and Conditions have hidden effects on the back of their cards, Complex Encounters appear on the map, and well, not gonna trouble you with every change in the rules.
But from what I saw in the reviews, this game has simpler rules that make it easier to handle them. So if the number of rules for Arkham had scared you, Eldritch Horror may be a better choice.
Amazon: Eldritch Horror [aff.]
BoardGameGeek: Eldritch Horror (2013)
If you have any connections to the world of board games, you’ve probably heard of that one. And if not, well, welcome to the world of Scythe!
It takes place in an alternate 1920s period in Eastern Europe where you play for one of the countries that struggle to revive after the end of the war. You’ll have to take over territories, enlist recruits, build structures to boost your economy, and create war machines – even if you won’t use them for battles.
Scythe is a game that emphasizes economy, diplomacy, and social status rather than fights with other players (although they’re possible, just not so important).
And, okay, the description may not sound exciting – I had my own doubts when my friend brought it.
But first of all, the art is incredible. Everything, from the rulebook to the little pieces of wood (not actual wood though) is made with the game’s atmosphere in mind.
Also, even if it doesn’t sound as exciting as traveling to other dimensions or taking over empires, creating your own strategy to get the most out of your faction is actually interesting.
There’s a reason that game is so popular (I’m not joking).
And if you’re afraid that it’s not suitable for a solo play, let me reassure you. Scythe’s Automa (the artificial opponent) is as unpredictable and interesting to play with as actual humans – checked it myself.
Talk about AI taking over the world, huh?
Amazon: Scythe [aff.]
BoardGameGeek: Scythe (2016)
Robinson Crusoe – Adventures on the Cursed Island
The first is Robinson Crusoe, the one my friend played and was excited to share with me.
The game, as the title suggests, is all about you following the Crusoe’s path. You play for a shipwreck survivor that ended up on a deserted island all alone.
The goal is, obviously, to survive.
You’ll have to find something to eat, build yourself a shelter, fight wild animals – and if you’ll be able to stay alive for long enough, reveal the island’s cursed secrets.
Sounds exhilarating to me!
However, the game is tough – it’s as hard as a real-life adventure. Or, okay, not that hard, but 90% chance you’ll die on the first try. And then again. And again.
There are many unexpected turns and things you can’t control, so be aware! If losing multiple times to wrap your head around the mechanics isn’t for you, Robinson Crusoe may not be your choice.
BoardGameGeek: Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island (2012)
Well, that one is a bit different. While in Robinson Crusoe you have to be the one invading an unknown island, in Spirit Island you are the one fighting the invaders! Isn’t it cool?
Also, if you like a bit of fantasy-mythic-magic stuff, you won’t be disappointed with that one!
In Spirit Island, you have to play as an elemental spirit peacefully living on an island full of people that know and worship you. But then – oh so unexpectedly for the human race – colonizers come to take over your land.
Your goal is to scare them away with the powers you possess. The game provides you with different kinds of spirits that have different powers and, accordingly, different game mechanics.
And, as some reviews suggest, you can take even two or more spirits for yourself and watch how they cooperate!
Amazon: Spirit Island [aff.]
BoardGameGeek: Spirit Island (2017)
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
I don’t think I need to explain in detail what the game is about – solving mysteries and outsmarting everyone else! The game provides you with 10 unique cases and a few simple props, like a map of London and a newspaper from the day of the crime – no luck needed, only your time and brain powers.
To be honest, that’s what I thought at first. Wasn’t even sure if I have to mention it here.
But, as I haven’t played it myself, I went through multiple reviews, and everyone loves this game. So much that now I want it more than any other on this list (except maybe for Eldritch).
If you love detective stories, if you want to be involved in the game from first to last, if you want something that’ll keep you engaged for hours– and I mean, hours, days, weeks! –go for it.
Of course, if you’re not afraid to stand against Sherlock Holmes himself.
Okay, it’s a silly question.
Do you like card games?
I focused on expanded, immersive, beautiful, and, frankly, big games before. But I wanted to add something smaller but no less good for your entertainment.
First of all, it’s designed as a solo board game. You can bring a partner, but at its core, it’s a game for one.
Second, the theme is unique. Walking through an out-of-this-world labyrinth, avoiding Nightmares, visiting the chambers of dreams – description itself creates the kind of atmosphere I like.
And, finally, it’s simple and pretty. If you don’t want to bother with pulling out a board, a rulebook, a whole bunch of tokens, and figures, and cards, and heaven knows what else – get that one deck of cards and start anytime. And anywhere.
Bring it wherever you want and play all by yourself!
Amazon: Onirim [aff.]
BoardGameGeek: Onirim (Second Edition) (2014)
You may be the one to answer that question!
In Terraforming Mars, you play as one of the huge corporations that decided to take over Mars. The game revolves around projects aimed at making the temperature, oxygen level, and ocean coverage of Mars suitable for human life.
But, of course, terraforming is not a cheap task, so you’ll have to plan your steps accordingly, choose which projects align with your interests and which aren’t worth your attention.
What can I say, you have to think twice before transforming a planet.
But beware! Terraforming Mars has various starting points – you have 12 corporations and over 200 cards to choose from – but the goal is always the same: to score the highest point.
Or, of course, the goal is to terraform Mars – but after a couple of rounds, the point of the game comes down to numbers.
It doesn’t mean the game gets boring, oh no, there are so many different ways you can build towards that final point! But, still, if you’re not a fan of having the same result at the very end, maybe skip on that one.
Amazon: Terraforming Mars [aff.]
BoardGameGeek: Terraforming Mars (2016)
And here I want to finish up with a couple of the best solo board games – according to multiple ranks and reviews. They are beautiful, atmospheric, big, yes, but also captivating and inspiring!
Why then I put them down here?
Well, because they’re difficult. Like, really difficult.
And if you’re not familiar with the world of board games, I do not recommend you to start with these two. Sheer size will scare you away.
The other day I talked to my friend, the one that loves board games and was giving me recommendations about most of these. She’d been playing all kinds of board games – but even she was intimidated by that new one she got.
Yup, Gloomhaven. A huge pile of tokens, characters, scenarios – and, well, fun! And experience! And, honestly, just pure joy.
The game is so big (and expensive) because it has loads and loads of different things for you to learn and play with! Which means that when you get a grip of the game, you have a whole new world in your hands.
Gloomhaven is a town on the game map (which is not limited to that one place, bear with me), around which the story unfolds. You play as one of the characters – and there’s a special box with a unique set for each of them – through different scenarios. You will explore dungeons, fight monsters, go on quests, level up your character, and see every bit of Gloomhaven.
And if the size, the price, or the set of rules don’t seem like an obstacle, immerse yourself in that new and unexplored world!
Amazon: Gloomhaven [aff.]
BoardGameGeek: Gloomhaven (2017)
Just like Gloomhaven, Mage Knight is often mentioned as one of the best solo board games. Well, for those who are not easily intimidated by the set of rules.
Because, again, the amount of text you have to get through to finish even one day (in the game) can quickly make a newbie bored.
Or, maybe, you like that kind of stuff?
For one, I love it! I love to spend hours exploring the game even before playing, reading all cards and stories, checking what every symbol means. This almost meditative practice sets you into the world of the game slowly and carefully.
And, if you’re not put off by such experience, welcome to the world of Mage Knight!
Now, how the game works? You get a character, you fight monsters, you build your reputation, explore the world, level up – and fight more monsters on the way to finish your quest.
But don’t let similar gameplay fool you! Gloomhaven and Mage Knight have different mechanics, different strategies, different ways to explore – not even mentioning the stories that revolve around the games.
Also, Gloomhaven is rather a campaign that, once started, has to be finished. It doesn’t mean you’ll have to stay at the table for days, though – but when you pull the game out again, you won’t start from the very beginning (unless you want so).
Mage Knight, on the other hand, is a more focused, more solo experience that you can start and finish in one day, upgrading your character from nobody to a true hero that takes over cities and fights armies or enemies.
Which one is better is up to you!
Amazon: Mage Knight [aff.]
BoardGameGeek: Mage Knight Board Game (2011)
Oof, that was a long ride, huh? Probably the biggest, most detailed post I wrote up to date.
I hope it was helpful! And even if you haven’t decided on purchasing or checking something out, maybe it made the world of modern board games a bit clearer and brighter for you.
Now it’s time to wrap up. Remember to leave your thoughts down below!
Have you ever played board games? Maybe, you played something from the games I mentioned and want to add something? Or it was entirely new to you – what do you think then? Let me know!