by Mike Jones
Although most board games are designed for multiple players, there are times when a person simply wants to be alone and play a game by themselves. In that case, it is important that the game is intriguing enough to hold the person's attention for multiple sessions. To that end, here is a list of the top 20 best solo board games:
Players: 1-4 | Game Time: 60-120 minutes | Complexity: Medium Heavy | Age: 12+ | Year: 2017
Top on our list of best solo board games is Gloomhaven! Peppered with forgotten ruins and menacing dungeons, Gloomhaven is a medieval town located in a dark corner of the world. In order to negotiate area obstacles, players take on a mercenary role, which allows them to participate in multiples quests. At the end of each quest, players choose what comes next, and the story progresses much like a sandbox video game. Gloomhaven can be played in solo mode, or multiple players can work together to overcome obstacles, enhancing their skills in the process.
Gloomhaven is ideal for playing in solo mode because of its progressive nature. It is similar to a book wherein the reader chooses their own adventure. An innovative card system is used to determine what a player must do as they fight against automated monsters. This solo board game is designed for one to four players 12 years old and older. Sessions typically last from one to two hours.
Players: 1-5 | Game Time: 120 minutes | Complexity: Medium Heavy | Age: 12+ | Year: 2019
Coming in a close second on the list of best solo board games is Terraforming Mars. It takes place in the 25th century where giant corporations bid for an opportunity to terraform Mars (who would have guessed?). As a representative of one of those corporations, players are tasked with the responsibility of building cities by harvesting resources and establishing infrastructures. Players are able to gain victory points in a multitude of ways as there are more than 200 projects to complete.
In addition to contributing to the terraforming process, points are also awarded for such commendable achievements as advancing human infrastructure throughout the solar systems. The game uses cards to help terraform the drab surface of Mars into a lush greenscape. Terraforming Mars is designed for one to five players 12 years old and older. It can also be played in solo fashion. Sessions typically last from two to three hours.
Players: 1-5 | Game Time: 75-150 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 12+ | Year: 2018
In the aftermath of a devastating war funded by The Factory, a capitalistic city-state, players sift through rusted gears and broken hearts to collect resources, recruit militia, conquer new territories and build structures. The time period is the 1920s. Each player represents a fallen leader who is trying to regain honor and restore the power of the faction they lead. In addition to choices made by players, hidden objective cards and encounter cards combine with luck to provide temporary combat boosts.
The solo board game can be played by up to five players 14 years old and older. However, its "Automa" feature allows it to be played in solo fashion. Players get to choose the difficulty level they want to deal with. No players are eliminated, and no units are destroyed. The maximum playing time is 115 minutes. The game board is slightly larger than 24 inches by 32 inches.
Players: 1-6 | Game Time: 45-90 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 13+ | Year: 2015
Anyone who has ever dreamed of owning their own winery in Tuscany will delight in one of the best solo board games. Players grow grapes, make and sell wines, build structures and give tours. All of the action takes place on an inherited vineyard consisting of a few meager plots of land, a tiny cellar and an old crush pad. Players are tasked with the responsibility of delegating work to helpers and visitors in a competitive fashion with the goal of transforming the inherited property into the most successful winery in Tuscany.
Although the game is designed for one to six players, it can be played in solo mode where the sole player is pitted against another worker who is represented by a card deck known as an "automa." In some respects, Viticulture is a time management game. Average playing time is about 45 to 90 minutes. The game includes 24 automa cards, 18 field cards and 36 mama and papa cards. It is designed for players 13 years old and older.
Players: 1-2 | Game Time: 60-120 minutes | Complexity: Medium Heavy | Age: 14+ | Year: 2016
Arkham Horror: The Card Game blurs the line between role play and traditional card playing. Players take on the roles of investigators who gather clues and attempt to solve mysteries to defeat evil in Arkham. Each investigator has specific strengths and weaknesses, which are reflected in encounter cards. As players complete tasks, they gain experience points that can be used to upgrade their deck. As the game progresses, players must deal with haunted houses, strange creatures and cultists.
The game is designed for up to two players 14 years old and older and can be played in solo mode. Each session takes about 90 minutes. The game is played in more of a campaign mode than an adventure mode. Players' choices and actions have far-reaching consequences and allow the players to gain valuable experience that better prepares them for what lies ahead.
Players: 1-5 | Game Time: 150 minutes | Complexity: Heavy | Age: 14+ | Year: 2018
Created by Vlaada Chvatil, a renowned designer, Mage Knight combines intrigue, character development and sword fighting into a unique gaming experience that allows from one to four players to cooperate or compete against each other. As Mage Knights, players are thrown into the Atlantean Empire, a sprawling, ever-changing land where players build armies and battle against marauding enemies in hopes of conquering cities on behalf of the mysterious Void Council.
Knights must learn to cast powerful spells and acquire new abilities along the way as they battle fierce monsters. They also must make decisions that could result in victory or tragedy. Mage Knight was one of the first games to combine a roleplaying game, a card game and a board game into what is now known as a collectible miniatures game.
The game is designed for players 13 years old and older. It features a collection of cards, intricately painted miniatures, tokens, map tiles, mana crystals, mana dice, game mats and rulebooks. Most sessions take two hours or more to complete. Mage Knight is ideal as one of the best solo board games, and rules for solo play are included.
Players: 1-4 | Game Time: 60-120 minutes | Complexity: Medium Heavy | Age: 14+ | Year: 2019
Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island requires shipwrecked crew members to survive on a deserted island. Confronted by massive challenges, players must find food and shelter, fight off wild beasts and shield themselves from violent storms. As they adapt to new surroundings, they must figure out how to build walls around dwellings, tame wild animals and fabricate tools from salvaged materials. In other words, they must do whatever it takes to survive.
Along the way, players make decisions that can take the game in a number of different directions. Event cards, object cards and structure cards determine whether players find a pirate treasure or uncover such things as a cursed temple at the bottom of a volcano. However, the game is not all luck-it has to be played strategically, and every decision has long-term consequences.
The game offers six different scenarios and is designed for one to four players who each take on the role of a character from the ship's crew. This could be a cook, explorer, carpenter or soldier. Players can work together or in solo mode to develop an action plan and put it into motion. This allows them to search for treasure and uncover island secrets. The game is designed for players 14 years old and older. Typical playing times range from one to two hours.
Players: 1-2 | Game Time: 30-60 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 13+ | Year: 2011
This is a great card game for anyone who likes to fight monsters and solve quests. It also is favored by individuals who are able to think strategically and enjoy a real challenge. This is because players must make tough decisions in order to complete missions and finish scenarios with the group of characters and heroes they lead.
The game is designed for one or two players 13 years old and older. Average playing time ranges from 30 to 90 minutes. Expansions can be purchased that add different characters and adventures. Some people believe this is one of the best solo board games a person can get their hands on because of the number of different decks that can be built in order to find the best combination of characters and cards.
Players: 1-6 | Game Time: 45-120 minutes | Complexity: Medium Heavy | Age: 18+ | Year: 2018
This War of Mine is all about survival. Based on events related to the Bosnian war, the main action takes place in a war-torn city where people live instead of at the front lines. Civilians are suffering, and it is up to players to lead them to safety. In doing so, they must build shelters and find food. During the day, they must constantly be on the lookout for snipers and maintain their hideout. At night, they have to go scavenging through war-torn areas, looking for items they can use to help them stay alive.
As the game progresses, it continues to get more challenging, and players are forced to make many difficult decisions in order to survive, such as whether to protect everyone or sacrifice some so that others stand a better chance of surviving longer. While the game can be played by as many as six participants, it is best played in solo mode, hence on the list of best solo board games! Each session takes about 45 to 120 minutes. The game is recommended for ages 18 and over.
Players: 1-4 | Game Time: 45-90 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 10+ | Year: 2014
Imperial Settlers is a card game wherein players build empires. In order to do that, they are tasked with building structures and gathering resources from mines and fields. To protect the land, they also must build barracks and train soldiers. Players can choose to lead any of the four factions that have moved to this location in order to expand their boundaries. This includes Romans, Egyptians, Barbarians and Japanese.
During the five rounds of the game, players perform various actions to score victory points as they explore new lands, trade resources, build buildings and conquer enemies. The game is designed for one to four players ages 10 and over. Playing time is approximately 45 to 90 minutes. If the game begins to get stale, expansions can be purchased that add replay value.
Players: 1-4 | Game Time: 45-90 minutes | Complexity: Medium Light | Age: 12+ | Year: 2015
The object of the Burgle Bros. solo board game is to pull off a seemingly impossible heist that consists of emptying the contents of three safes located on different skyscraper floors. This requires a coordinated effort to assemble a crew and conjure up a foolproof escape plan that will allow players to avoid alarms, laser traps and armed guards. Additionally, players must be able to escape via the roof even though it is protected by vaults and fingerprint scanners.
To overcome obstacles, certain characters within the game are able to perform extraordinary tasks, such as hacking and acrobatics. The game is designed for one to four players eight years old and older. In solo mode, the player gets to perform multiple roles. Sessions are approximately 45 to 90 minutes long. The game includes 124 premium square cards, 48 cardboard tiles, nine character meeples, three guard meeples, nine translucent dice, 73 tokens and 24 wooden walls.
Players: 1-5 | Game Time: 30-45 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 14+ | Year: 2017
Tiny Epic Galaxies was awarded Solo Game of the Year in 2015 by BoardGameGeek, so obviously we had to include it on our list of best solo board games! As one of the best small-box board game collections, it provides an epic game experience in less than 60 minutes. In this space exploration game, players are faced with the task of acquiring planets, increasing their influence and managing resources. Players must hone their strategic and cognitive skills when pitted against a galaxy of rogue players.
The game is designed for one to five players 14 years old and older. It is easy to learn and is popular with players of all ages from kids to adults. Its components feature a beautiful graphic design, and its compact package makes the game easy to carry. Players roll dice wherein the number that can be rolled is dependent on the strength of their galaxy. Average playing time is around 20 minutes.
Players: 1-8 | Game Time: 60-120 minutes | Complexity: Medium Light | Age: 10+ | Year: 2017
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper and West End Adventures is great for anyone who loves to solve puzzles and mysteries. Players get to assume the identity of Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective of all time! In that role, they are forced to use their ingenuity, pay attention to details and sharpen their sleuthing skills. The game is designed for one to eight players 12 years old and older and can be played in solo mode. Each session takes about 90 minutes.
To keep things interesting, there are 10 intriguing, original cases to solve. Six of those cases are stand-alone adventures while four of them are linked with a campaign to stop Jack the Ripper. Players get drawn into the old-world flavor of Victorian London through the use of newspapers and maps that Holmes must sift through in order to solve each mystery.
Players: 1 | Game Time: 25 minutes | Complexity: Medium Light | Age: 13+ | Year: 2011
The board game Friday is designed to be played only in solo mode. It is a unique and fun deck-building game that takes about 30 minutes per session. Players assume the role of Friday, Robinson Crusoe's trusted right hand, who goes on to fight pirates and help Crusoe survive as Crusoe ages and becomes clumsy. Crusoe is represented by a stack of cards with different behaviors. Friday must improve the card stack in order for Crusoe to have a chance at defeating the pirates.
The game is designed for players 13 years old and older. Although it involves some luck, players must work in a strategic fashion to improve Friday's skills. The game is addictive, and players typically find themselves replaying the game in an attempt to beat their own score.
Players: 1-2 | Game Time: 15 minutes | Complexity: Medium Light | Age: 10+ | Year: 2014
The main goal of Onirim is to escape a mysterious labyrinth by opening the right doors. Players attempt this by taking advantage of cards with matching symbols and colors. However, the game requires a combination of deduction skills and luck to get the correct doors open before the cards run out. Otherwise, a player may find themselves aimlessly wandering from room to room, forced to deal with the haunting nightmares that come to life in the labyrinth.
Onirim is ideal for players with short attention spans as sessions typically last only about 15 minutes. Despite short sessions, though, the abstract game delivers plenty of tension. Onirim is designed for one or two players 14 years old and older. The newest version includes seven mini-expansions and one appendix as an added bonus.
Players: 1-2 | Game Time: 30-45 minutes | Complexity: Medium Light | Age: 14+ | Year: 2017
In One Deck Dungeon, players become heroes who fight their way through a series of dungeon floors all the way to the boss in an effort to defeat it. It is a difficult-to-survive card game that is different each time. Players begin with a character that they must build up from scratch in order to battle various foes and other dungeon perils.
Cards are used to determine the obstacles that must be overcome and the rewards for doing so. Players choose a card option and then tuck the card away in such a manner as to show the choice that was made. It is important to escape the dungeon quickly. Otherwise, players will delve deeper, and the difficulty level will increase dramatically.
One Deck Dungeon can be played by two players or in solo mode. Each session takes about 30 to 45 minutes. It is designed for players 14 years old and older. The game contains five hero cards, 30 small six-sided dice, one turn reference card, 44 encounter cards, four level cards, five dungeon-boss cards, two basic skill cards, one stairs card, 15 red damage token cubes, six white potion cubes, one campaign sheet pad and a 39-page rules booklet.
Players: 1-4 | Game Time: 30-60 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 13+ | Year: 2018
Shadowrun: Crossfire players take on the role of runners who are tasked with the responsibilities of securing valuable information, battling dragons and protecting VIPs in a dystopian world. Success in those ventures allows a player to upgrade their character, gain Karma and improve their playing abilities to the point that they can sling spells, talk a tiger out of their stripes or hack the Matrix.
Although this deck-building game can be played by up to four players, it is also excellent as one of the best solo board games because a player can control two or more runners. It includes two obstacle decks, a crossfire event deck, a black market deck, upgrade stickers, mission sheets, runner cards and role cards. The game is designed for players 13 years old and older. Each session takes about 30 to 60 minutes.
Players: 1-6 | Game Time: 120 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 14+ | Year: 2017
Rumors have been spreading about the return of an evil Darkness that swept the land a generation ago. At that time, Lightbringers were able to use magical weapons to defeat the evil Darkness and send it far below the surface of the earth. Now it looks like the stage is set for a rematch.
Much of the action occurs in tunnels below the surface of the earth. Players can take advantage of the darkness by using shadow mode players. After choosing their hero and class, players join other Lightbringers in various adventures and campaigns with the goal of illuminating the evil underground. Throughout the game, player heroes encounter all kinds of monsters, including agents, minions, bosses and roaming monsters.
Massive Darkness is a roleplaying game designed for one to six players 14 years old and older. Sessions take from 90 to 180 minutes to complete. The game comes with six detailed hero figures and 69 detailed enemy figures. The campaign includes 10 unique quests.
Players: 1 | Game Time: 20 minutes | Complexity: Medium Light | Age: 15+ | Year: 2017
Solitaire Game of the Year winner in 2015, Hostage Negotiator is designed to be played as a solo game and obviously one of the best solo board games. Players negotiate with abductors in an attempt to secure the release of hostages through the use of cards and by rolling dice. Although luck plays a part, success also depends on strategy. This is because abductors are different, and each one requires a different negotiating technique. Unlike deck-building games, cards purchased by a player go into that player's hand to be used in the next turn.
Hostage Negotiator is challenging because there are numerous paths to victory. For instance, should a player attempt to calm the abductor and get him or her to surrender, or would it be better to stall until reinforcements are able to stage a major extraction? The game is designed for players 14 years old and older. Each session takes about 20 minutes to complete.
Players: 1-6 | Game Time: 60-999 minutes | Complexity: Light | Age: 14+ | Year: 2017
Rounding out our list of best solo board games is Legacy of Dragonholt. Legacy of Dragonholt begins with players designing their own heroes - choosing between humans, dwarves, elves, orcs, catfolk and gnomes. Following that, they select a class, define traits and scribe a personal history. This dictates how their characters will respond to obstacles they encounter throughout the remainder of their journey. Once the creative process is complete, the heroes begin their journey in the Rune-bound universe where a mysterious death has occurred near the edge of Terrinoth.
As the game continues, players battle goblins and other creatures long thought dead in an attempt to end the evil reign of a Dragonholt lord. Legacy of Dragonholt combines roleplaying with video games, adventure games and adventure books. It is all about the story rather than winning or losing. This solo board game is designed for one to six players 14 years old and older. Average session time is 60 minutes or more. Players have the opportunity to participate in six noble and thrilling quests.
About Mike Jones
As a child of the 80's, my fondest gaming memories are playing Pitfall, Frogger, Kaboom! and Chopper Command on our old Atari 8600. These days I've been rocking the Nintendo Classic and learning some new card and board games with the family."