Traditionally, the board games were always about playing with a group of people. You could either go against other players (i.e., competitive) or team up with the others (i.e., cooperative) to play against the game itself.
Until recently, single player board games were quite scarce and uncommon. Looking at the latest releases, it is evident that the board gaming landscape is evolving. Notably, there have been more solo board games released in the last couple of years than in all previous years of board gaming combined.
There are two different design approaches for single-player board games to get your head around. Board games that are designed explicitly for a solitaire play and board games that can support both single-player and group modes.
Board games that can do both, usually support the solo play in one of two distinct ways. The player either takes on roles of multiple characters or buys an expansion that enables a solitaire mode.
At the same time, some board games, like Scythe, have gone an extra mile. They have included a full-scale experience for both. In other words, a fully supported single player and group modes are included in the base game. Admittedly, that approach is less common but has started to pick up some traction recently.
Lastly, the design approach is not crucial to delivering the top single player experience. We should judge board games by the level of excitement they manage to create, not the design methodology.
And that is precisely what we are about to do in our best single player board games review!
Best Solo Board Games – Quick Comparison
The below table summarizes the best solo board games available on the market today. We have carefully selected a list of games that will fit your circumstances based on the duration, difficulty level and age.
|Mage Knight||Fantasy||14+||Very Hard||1 - 4||60–240 Min|
|Onirim||Dreamworld||8+||Very Easy||1 - 2||15 Min|
|The Lord of the Rings|
The Card Game
|Fantasy||13+||Medium||1 - 2||60 Min|
|Robinson Crusoe||Survival||14+||Hard||1 - 4||60–120 Min|
|Viticulture||Manufacturing||13+||Medium||1 - 6||45–90 Min|
|Hostage Negotiator||Negotiation||13+||Easy||1||20 Min|
|Scythe||Steampunk||12+||Hard||1 - 5||90–115 Min|
|Terraforming Mars||Space||13+||Hard||1 - 4||90–120 Min|
|This War of Mine||Civil War||18+||Medium||1 - 6||45–120 Min|
The game was released in 2011 and has made some real noise as it has appealed to fantasy and RPG board game lovers.
It was designed by a renowned designer Vlaada Chvatil and supports one to four players.
Although the board game features group play, it was the solo mode that made the most buzz.
The game introduced character progression in a beautifully executed fantasy world setting. Explorations, quests and fantasy artifacts manage to immerse players so much other board games, years later, are still struggling to match.
Mage Knight manages to combine a number of board gaming elements such as deck-building, card drafting and roleplaying to create a cohesive and smooth gaming experience.
Additionally, it captures the rich history of the Mage Knight universe in a very engaging way that makes you lose the sense of time.
Since it is essential to get steps right, player turns takes thorough planning, and a considerable downtime as a result. But since you are playing this board game solo – this is not a concern.
Since turns in Mage Knight can get complex and require detailed planning, it is likely that players would make mistakes. Thankfully, the game features a mechanism that allows reverting player actions safely.
The unusual thing to mention is that movement steps can be random. If you do decide to move, it has to be the first thing you do. If you choose not to, you are likely to stay put this turn. This is fine when intended, not so much when you are trying to get from one place to another.
We have previously had a pleasure reviewing best RPG board games where Mage Knight was highly praised for its role-playing capabilities. Additionally, if a solitaire board game experience mixed with role-playing is what you are after, Mage Knight is set to deliver in spades. Please welcome the new future classic.
|In short – Mage Knight is truly stunning, but it is not for everyone. It delivers an immersive, adventurous and deep gaming experience in a fantasy world setting that is second to none. At the same time, it is complex and requires you to have around three hours up your sleeve. But if you are ready for it – get it without thinking twice. In my humble opinion, it still holds the crown as the best solo board game ever made.|
|Best fantasy solo board game period|
|Character progression is brilliant|
|An immersive and engaging board gaming experience|
|Not the best rulebook|
|Not newcomer friendly|
|Long setup and lengthy play|
Friday board game has been inspired by a well known Robinson Crusoe tale of survival on the desert island. In the game, you take on the role of Friday, the grateful chap who became the right-hand man to the most famous castaway in history – Robinson Crusoe.
You will help Robinson to learn how to survive and combat the native dangers on the island. After all, It appears that Robinson is not that adept at surviving and has slim chances of making it through the day without your help.
The idea is to build a deck with the best cards you can get, by keeping good cards and trashing bad ones.
You get additional cards by fighting wild beasts on the island. Every time you are successful in battle, you get to keep a card. On the other hand, losing battles results in taking damage and losing life points. Once you run out of life points, the game ends in defeat.
Eventually, you want to build a strong enough deck to fight the two pirates at the end of the game, winning which will ultimately make you win the game.
To get to the pirates, you need to survive three hazard deck rounds. They increase in difficulty every time, so you want to make sure you can stand them before having your final battle with the pirates. Once you face the pirates and beat them, the game ends and you win the game.
The rules of Friday are quite straightforward and can be learned extremely quickly. The rulebook has a simple and neat layout making it easy to learn the game and find answers.
Although the game itself is simple, it is not that easy to win. Be prepared to die a lot, especially in the beginning. Dying is fun and frustrating at the same time as it pushes you to do a better job next time around. You will eventually become better and work out the strategies by fine-tuning your approach every time.
Being a short game that lasts only about 30 minutes, it has high replayability. It is also quite addictive as it makes you want to beat your previous score again and again.
|Friday is a very neat, small, and simple game that employs classic solitaire principles. At the same time, do not be deceived by its simplicity as the strategy to constantly improve your score has enough depth and complexity to make you challenge yourself to do a better job every time you play.|
|Difficulty level can be adjusted|
|Simple rules, deep strategy|
|Great and short filler game|
|Artwork feels plain and dated|
Thematically, you are a Dreamwalker who found himself lost in a mysterious labyrinth and is trying to get out.
Walking through the rooms, chambers, garden mazes, observatories, corridors and libraries trying to make sense of the confusing, mysterious world is an fantastic thematic experience.
To successfully escape the darkness of the dream world, you need to navigate the maze to find and unlock eight colored doors. To open each door, you need to play three cards matching the door color. Pretty simple you may think? Not really.
In the base game, you only get three types of cards – Labirynth, Door, and Dream cards, which makes it an easy start.
To add some extra spice, complexity and variety, the latest version of Onirim comes with seven little expansions which you can choose to include at your preference.
The abundance of different cards allows you to tailor the gameplay and find the card balance that works for you. From experience, mixing in a couple of expansions works well as the game remains streamlined. Conversely, including all expansions at once makes the game frustrating and barely playable.
Overall, Onirim is a unique card game that has managed to surprise us in so many ways.
Simple rules, beautiful design, and the game’s theme manage to generate a fantastic feeling of tension. You always feel that the time is ticking away and there is never enough of it to unlock remaining doors.
The game is timed by using the draw deck. If you manage to unlock all 8 doors before the draw deck depletes, you escape the confusing dream world and win the game. Alternatively, if the draw deck runs out and you still have some doors unlocked, you succumb to darkness and remain trapped in the dream world forever.
Although Onirim is predominantly a single player game, it can also work with two players. It makes it an excellent choice for couples and friends.
|There is a lot to like about Onirim as it is beautiful, simple, immersive and comes with a healthy level of tension. With seven expansions included in the box, the game has enormous replay value. Moreover, it allows you to tailor the difficulty and gaming style to your liking. If you are after a quick, easy, thematic game that you could occasionally play solo or with your partner, Onirim is one of the best single player board games around.|
|Thematic and immersive gameplay|
|Works well with 2 players|
|Card special abilities are not printed on the cards and need to be looked up in the rulebook|
|A lot of shuffling|
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is an adventure card game where you find yourself in a fantasy world created by J.R.R. Tolkien.
You get to lead a group of heroes, which have different statistics and abilities to complete scenarios by resolving quests. To support your heroes on the mission, you can recruit allies, play events and acquire different items to boost their character stats.
Each round, players send their heroes and allies to resolve quests or to fight monsters. The decision to do one or the other is the key principle of the game.
Throughout the game, you will encounter monsters and will need to decide whether to engage in combat or not.
Sending your heroes to complete quests gets you closer to the ultimate objective of the game. On the other hand, avoiding engagement with enemies makes them grow stronger and eventually harder to beat.
When fighting or completing quests, your heroes get exhausted which limits their actions and engagement in battles.
The game’s design implies that there are always more options than your heroes could accomplish. The abundance of which and the lack of resources continually pushes you to make hard choices as you can never do everything that you would want to.
Playing The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game forces you to make tough calls between taking and dealing damage. At times you find, that both options are sub-optimal, but picking the one that is more sub-optimal than the other can easily land you a defeat.
The game can be rude and unforgiving, so if patience is not your virtue, you may not entirely enjoy it.
For the ones who enjoy challenges and strategic thinking – The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is among the best single player board games out there.
The components are well designed and feature an artwork that is both thematic and beautiful. The game truly makes a great aesthetic experience to play.
Although there are multiple expansions available, I suggest starting with a base game. It comes with enough cards to have a full featured gaming experience. Unlike other LCG (i.e., Living Card Games) games which tease you with a limited card set and expect you to buy expansions, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game provides a full-scale experience right out of the box.
|Overall, if you are looking for the best solo deck building card experience, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a great choice. It has over 100 expansions to keep your hunger in check and multiple awards and honors from Board Game Geek. The game is amazingly addictive but requires patience and strategic thinking to win the game and eventually enjoy it.|
|One of the best LCGs out there|
|Beautiful design and well-made components|
|Endless expansion content|
|Also great with two players|
|Can feel random at times|
|A couple of unfortunate negative events can end the game|
As you probably have guessed from the title of the game, the Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island is based on Daniel Defoe’s 1719 classic adventure tale.
You start the game stranded on the deserted island. Everything on the island is trying to kill you, so you have to do the very best you can to fight for survival.
Throughout the adventure, your character gets tasked with all the things you can expect to face on the deserted island. You need to find food, build a shelter, fight animals and protect yourself from severe weather conditions.
While there is an abundance of actions to take, it is essential to get your decisions right. Every choice you make may have long-term consequences and can eventually kill you.
Almost always, you feel that there are more things to do than you can handle. There is never enough food, tools, shelter and you never feel ready for the upcoming weather storm.
The problem is that the game does not let you do everything, and you need to be careful with whatever falls off the plate. The challenges that the game presents are both realistic and thematic. At the same time, there are so many of them that you are likely to find yourself in a constant state of anxiety.
More often than not, the game will present you with some very tough choices. Hence, if you’re going to make it off the island, you better be good at picking the right trade-offs.
The game comes with multiple scenarios and packs a lot of play time. Moreover, due to the excellent variety of random events, character traits and abilities, playing the same scenario twice does not feel repetitive.
Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island comes with an introductory scenario which we highly recommend first time players to start with. It partly compensates for the poorly written rulebook. Besides, it sets in the game basics right and prepares you for more complex game scenarios.
Each scenario tells a story which is engaging and unique. The cards contain a flavor text that you can read to yourself (preferably aloud) to add that extra level of immersion.
The game also lets you push your luck when performing actions, or play safe if that is your preference. For example, you can send two pawns on a mission which guarantees the success. Alternatively, you can send one pawn and roll an action dice to potentially get wounded.
You will have to get used to losing and dying. Although failing the game may feel disappointing, yet strangely enough, it also feels remarkably fulfilling.
Even when you get eaten by a crocodile or die from hunger, the richness of the game always delivers a feeling of accomplishment that you got one step closer to victory. It makes you reflect on the challenges you have gone through and gives you that funny itch to play the game again and make it further the next time around.
|Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island is more than a game, it is a truly remarkable survival experience. It is the time when the colorful and beautiful narrative meets the logical and realistic decision making. Sufficiently challenging, amazingly thematic and extremely rewarding gaming experience makes it one of the best solo board games wearing a survival theme.|
|One of the most thematic games we have ever played|
|Also brilliant with 2,3 or even 4 players|
|Well implemented game mechanics|
|Beautiful artwork & quality components|
|High replay value|
|Poorly structured and complex rulebook|
Have you ever wanted to own a vineyard? Now you can!
Viticulture Essential Edition is an extended and revised version of the original game. It comes with multiple expansions, including the one that enables a single player mode.
In the game, the players find themselves in Tuscany, Italy owning little vineyards that they have inherited.
You start the game with limited resources, such as an old plot of land, three workers, small cellar and an old but functioning crush pad.
The objective of the game is to build a highly successful winery by planting vines, building additional structures and fulfilling wine orders.
Opening the box, the first thing you notice is how refined and professionally made the overall package is. The artwork is just stunning, the components are well made, and the rulebook is neatly structured.
At the heart of the game and beyond the beautiful aesthetics lies one of the best single player board games with worker placement mechanics we have played. On the board, you will find different areas that allow you to perform various actions. Some of the main actions central to winemaking are:
- Acquire vines for your fields
- Plant vines in your fields
- Harvest grapes and collect tokens for your crush pad
- Make wine by moving it from the crush pad to the cellar
- Fulfill wine orders
Other actions on the board game are supporting actions since they help you to accomplish the above process sooner, better and with a higher return. Some of those secondary actions include giving winery tours to visitors, constructing new buildings, planting more vines and the most interesting one – asking your visitors to help you with the wine production.
The game also has a concept of seasons. This makes some actions more applicable for certain seasons of the year, so you need to make sure you get your timing right.
To support a single player mode, Viticulture Essential Edition introduces a neutral worker. It represents a competitor winemaker you need to beat to win the game.
The game goes for seven years. At the end of it, you have to compare your score with the score of the neutral worker, which is always 20. If you manage to beat it, you end up having a superior winery and win the game.
For some of us, the winemaking theme may lack catchiness and appear unattractive at first, but Viticulture Essential Edition makes you reconsider it. The game is incredibly thematic, especially for Euro-style games which are known to be plain and sometimes even boring. In fact, I have never thought I could enjoy making wine so much!
Viticulture Essential Edition has challenged our perception of Euro-style games. It delivers a surprisingly thematic and fulfilling gaming experience. The game is easy to learn and straightforward to play, yet it is sufficiently deep and strategic.
If I had to recommend one single player board game without knowing anything about person’s experience or preference, Viticulture Essential Edition is likely to be the one. It is one of the best Euro-style games around and one of the best single player board games that belongs in every solo gamer’s collection.
|High-quality game components|
|Only takes 3 minutes to setup|
|The rulebook is clear and easy to read|
|Some may find luck to be a decisive factor|
Hostage Negotiator is a single player only card game where you take on a role of a law enforcement agent.
You are required to negotiate the release of 12 student hostages taken by a deranged teacher. Each turn in the game represents a conversation between you and the hostage taker.
To increase your chances of striking a successful negotiation, you can use cards and roll dice. This combination of strategy and luck makes the gaming experience unpredictable, yet reasonably controlled and quite balanced.
Successful actions decrease the threat level, increase conversation points and eventually get the hostages released.
The great thing about Hostage Negotiator is that all abductors are entirely different and require a tailored negotiation approach.
This is not to say that you need to change the strategy every time, yet subtle changes in personalizing the negotiation approach can make a significant difference. To win the game, you must either capture or eliminate the hostage taker or save at least half the hostages.
You start the game by choosing the abductor, setting out demands, hostages and a threat meter. Demands are revealed one by one throughout the game, and that is how you learn what the abductor wants and tailor your strategy accordingly. The threat meter controls several things, but in essence, it is an indicator of the game difficulty.
Each turn consists of three phases, a conversation phase, a spend phase, and a terror phase. In the conversation phase, you play cards from your hand to resolve them. Successful card resolution gains positive effects such as rescuing hostages or generating conversation points.
In spend phase, you use conversation points earned previously to buy new cards.
Lastly, in terror phase bad things happen as the card from the terror deck is played triggering a negative event.
Hostage Negotiator has pretty simple rules and takes around 20 minutes to play, give or take.
Battling with the game feels fair and not overly complicated, so if you get most things right, you have a good chance of scoring a win. The theme is not for everyone as some may find it controversial. Otherwise, the game offers an amazingly rewarding and intense gaming experience as most negotiations tend to come down to the wire.
|If you are looking for a simple filler game with sufficient depth to keep you interested and engaged, Hostage Negotiator is one of the best solo board games to have on the go. It delivers an engaging and thematic gaming experience that is immersive and tense. All in less than 20 minutes!|
|Delivers a simple, challenging and tense gaming experience|
|Great filler game|
|Great expansions available|
|Theme may not be for everyone|
|Overall, the 7th Continent is truly a unique board game that feels less of a game and more of an experience. The implementation of multiple innovative ideas and mechanics coupled with stunning design deliver an immersive and thematic atmosphere that is second to none. It actually feels like a new generation of epic board gaming which every solitaire player should try.|
|Innovative gaming mechanics|
|Amazing storytelling experience|
|Has multiple awards|
|Could go on for hours|
|Does not work with 3 or 4 players|
Scythe is a competitive board game for 1 to 5 players, which features a specially designed solo mode.
When played in a group, players get to compete with each other. In a solo mode, however, you get to take on the whole game!
It is one of the top-funded board game projects ever to go through Kickstarter. The original game has managed to secure over 1,8 million dollars despite the initial pledge of only $33,000.
The game recreates the theme impeccably through detailed components and stunning artwork. It takes place in an alternate-history setting of the 1920s when Europa is going through the time of unrest. It is a period of cruel war and farming, rusted gears and deeply broken hearts, valor, and innovation.
In the game, the player takes on the lead of one of five faction representatives in Eastern Europe. Throughout the game, you will earn your fortune and fight for the land of the mysterious city called “The Factory”. The way to do it is extremely thematic. You get to conquer new territories, collect resources, recruit militia, build things and engage large mech machines to give you the tactical advantage.
At heart, Scythe is an asymmetric engine building game which puts players at different starting locations, with various resources, unique special abilities and grants them hidden objectives.
In fact, almost anything you do represents an engine building element. Conquer more land, build structures, enhance resource production, and make people work for you. All tailored to generate coins, build that fortune and spread the influence.
As previously mentioned, the game features a specially designed solo play system that game designers call Automa. It comes with custom cards and allows the game to move or activate a character, a mech or a worker to play against you.
Without going into too many details, Automa is probably one of the most straightforward and enjoyable solo systems I had pleasure playing. Everything seems to be clear, accessible and makes perfect sense. You won’t find yourself going through the rulebook finding that particular one player condition that sometimes applies and sometimes doesn’t.
In addition, Scythe lets you select one of four levels of solo play difficulty to match your skill. We suggest starting with the easiest level and make your way up. It may not be as easy as you may think.
The objective of the game varies between solo and group modes. Playing with others, it is all about gaining coins, which are ultimately your victory points. Solo mode, however, is about land and influence. In a solitaire mode, you need to conquer territories while the game is trying to stop you from doing so.
|Overall, Scythe is a fantastic example of the best steampunk solo play you can find. In fact, I would even take it a step further perhaps. Given the custom made solo play system and the fact that Scythe is currently ranked in the top 10 board games, it is one of the best single player board games to date. Deeply thematic, engaging engine-building mechanism creates a real sense of progress and tension that is rare to come by.|
|Decision-driven (not luck) strategic board game|
|Loads of replay value|
|Works great with any number of players|
|Low downtime between turns|
|Learning curve may feel slightly steep|
|Needs a big table to play|
The action takes place in the 25th century where the humanity has actively started to terraform Mars.
Some of the largest corporations on earth have come together to fund projects that would alter the climate and make it inhabitable for humans.
In the game, you represent one of the futuristic corporations bidding for projects and terraforming the Red Planet. The three main indicators that determine the terraforming advance are oxygen, temperature and ocean coverage levels.
To contribute to the above objectives, players can acquire and complete projects. You can build cities, harvest resources, establish greenhouse infrastructure, plant trees, breed animals and much more. There are over 200 of them, and each one is unique!
For each human advancement on Mars or in the solar system in general, you get victory points which you need to win the game.
Concerning time, each turn represents one generation. This means that by the time you finish the game, you would have covered hundreds of years. Those great leaps of time align nicely with the game’s theme and the atmosphere it manages to deliver. They create a fantastic feeling of contributions, life-changing milestones and substantial progress towards an entirely different future for humanity.
Often, projects are dependant on the current terraforming state of Mars which is determined by the levels of oxygen, temperature and ocean coverage. For example, you need to have sufficient oxygen in the atmosphere to be able to introduce the animal life to the planet.
Everytime you improve any of the three thresholds, it takes the game one step closer to its completion. Once the predetermined levels of oxygen, temperature and ocean coverage reach the required level, the game ends.
Having that visibility allows you to time and pace your actions as you progress in the game. You can rush your way through or you can really maximize the industrial advancement before wrapping up the game.
The base rules are relatively simple letting you start playing Terraforming Mars in little to no time. In most cases, it merely requires you to follow card instructions to resolve action effects. The rules are neatly structured and clear, so finding the answers should be quick and easy.
The only real complexity comes from working out the combined effects of the played cards and keeping it in mind throughout the game. Otherwise, the gaming experience is pretty straightforward and reasonably streamlined.
Are there any things we don’t like about the game? Honestly, not many. The only place where we felt somewhat disappointed is the design and the components quality. Cards and player mats feel thin and fragile. Cubes seem to be too generic and can represent almost anything. The card design is inconsistent as it uses stock photos, illustrations, and 3D rendered images.
|Terraforming Mars is a great Euro game that is exceptionally thematic and engaging. It keeps players involved by setting galaxy scale objectives that feel extremely rewarding to achieve. With over 200 unique action cards, the game offers a high replay value and delivers a surprisingly fun and educational experience. If open space and sci-fi is your thing, prepare to be rewarded with one of the best solo board games in our galaxy!|
|Fun and rewarding gaming experience|
|Over 200 unique action cards|
|Component quality is not great|
|May take up to 3 hours|
This War of Mine: The Board Game is a tabletop adaptation of the critically acclaimed video game released in 2014.
The game, not only shows, but also makes you experience the hardship of wartime and puts the essence of humanity and moral thresholds to the test.
Despite there being plenty of war board games on the market, This War of Mine is different.
The war approach taken by the developers sets the board game apart from anything else we have previously played. It is no longer about attacking, defending, shooting and explosives, but instead about hunger, desperation, fear, and pneumonia.
You start the game as a group of people trying to find their way out of the building that stands in ruins in a city that is under a siege. Your group is hungry and emotionally broken, yet manages to pull themselves together to make that last attempt at getting out.
The game has a day and night phase. During the day you will typically move your civilians around and make them do something productive to increase the chances of survival.
Those tasks may include unblocking passages, searching rooms for items, building a bed, setting traps to catch some food and much more. There are plenty of things to do in the game, but you soon realize that you do not have enough time or supplies to accomplish all of it.
The game continually forces you to make tough choices which get worse as the game advances and the health of your civilians diminishes.
The night phase is either about resting or scavenging for food and supplies. You will typically have your group split in two. Some of your people are likely to stay at “home”, get some rest or hold the door to protect yourself from occasional night raids. Others are likely to go on a scavenging hunt to find some supplies, food, water or even weapons.
The theme is the biggest highlight of This War of Mine: The Board Game. It feels so real that some may even find it somewhat uncomfortable. The game almost naturally starts to push your moral compass and make choices based on your values.
Most of the tough calls you need to make do not have a good option. For example – should you steal food from others and let them die the next day or should you not steal and lose some of your civilians instead.
To make the theme even more profound and immersive, the game comes with a thick book of scripts. Depending on the actions you take and the events that happen, the game directs you to a text in the book. Reading the script in the book forms a deep and unique civil war survival narrative almost every time.
You can never win the game in a true sense. At best, yet still, a grim outcome you can try to stay alive.
Overall, it is hard to explain how immersive the gaming experience is, you need to try it for yourself. Although the game supports up to 6 players, you want to play it solo.
Since the game is so heavily thematic, multiple players tend to dilute your immersion and break the intensity build up. Do yourself a favor – try to experience the game on your own before trying group play. This War of Mine is probably the best single player board game survival experience we have ever had.
|This War of Mine is not an easy game, especially if you want to stay alive at the end of the game. In fact, it feels more than just a game, it is a fantastic study of survival during wartime and civil collapse. The theme, storytelling, and realism the game manages to generate are unparalleled. Although some may find the experience too tense and overwhelming, we believe that everyone should give this game a go. It pushes the limits of board game immersion to a whole new level in our view.|
|Deep and immersive experience|
|Great design and component quality|
|Incredible attention to details|
|No positive way to win the game|
|Can be really long (if you survive)|