Looking for the best solo board games in case your board game night falls through? Or perhaps you like playing at your own pace with no peer pressure? Great news! We’ve just finished reviewing the top solo board games you can currently buy.

Traditionally, 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.

The below table summarizes the best solo card games and 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.

Image Players / Time / Age / DifficultyTop 10 Single Player Board Games

Best Complex – Mage Knight

Best Complex – Mage Knight

The game that started the mass adoption of the solitaire genre in board games. Complex, challenging with immense strategic depth.

1 – 4 60-240 Min 14+ Hard

Best For Casual Play – Friday

Best For Casual Play – Friday

Easy, quick and neat survival board game. You need to help Robinson Crusoe to escape the island. A perfect survival filler board game.

1 25 Min 13+ Easy

Best Abstract – Onirim

Best Abstract – Onirim

An abstract game where you get to be a Dreamwalker. You have found yourself lost in a dream and need to find the way out.

1 – 2 15 Min 8+ Very Easy

Best Solo Card Game – The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

Best Solo Card Game – The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

One of the best solitaire card game experiences out there. A highly thematic and deeply addictive adventure in a fantasy world.

1 – 2 60 Min 13+ Medium

Best Survival – Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island

Best Survival – Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island

Potentially the best survival board game ever made. Build shelters, cook food, craft items, and hunt animals.

1 – 4 60-120 Min 14+ Hard

Best Worker Placement – Viticulture Essential Edition

Best Worker Placement – Viticulture Essential Edition

Ever though building vineyards could be exciting? Here is your chance to plant vines, collect and crush them to produce vine and fulfill orders.

1 – 6 45-90 Min 13+ Medium

Best On The Go – Hostage Negotiator

Best On The Go – Hostage Negotiator

You take on a role of a law enforcement officer required to negotiate the release of 12 hostages. A game of compromise and negotiation skill.

1 20 Min 13+ Easy

Best Steampunk – Scythe

Best Steampunk – Scythe

Visually beautiful and thematically stunning Steampunk setting. Conquer land and gain influence to become the most influential faction!

1 – 5 90-120 Min 12+ Medium

Best Economic Strategy – Brass: Birmingham

Best Space Theme Solo Board Game – Terraforming Mars

Lead one of the competing corporations in distant future to make Mars more habitable for humans and build settlements.

1 – 4 90-120 Min 13+ Medium

Best Civil War – This War of Mine

Best Civil War – This War of Mine

Based on true events of a civil war caused by the 1992 siege of Sarajevo. Deeply thematic and incredibly realistic experience of the civil collapse.

1 – 6 45-120 Min 18+ Medium

The Best Solo Board Games – Our Top Picks

1. Best Solo RPG – Mage Knight

I genuinely think that the recent increase in popularity of solo board gaming has a lot to do with the Mage Knight success.

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.

In my view, Mage Knight is revolutionary as it has managed to redefine what a modern solo play is.

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.

The game manages to combine a number of board gaming elements such as deck-building, card drafting, and roleplaying to create cohesive and smooth gameplay.

Additionally, it captures the rich history of the Mage Knight universe in a very engaging way that makes you lose the sense of time.

Not only has Mage Knight become one of the top 10 single player games to play out there, it has redefined what a solo play is!
The biggest criticism about the game was always the excessive downtime between the turns. Each turn consists of multiple steps, which are tightly related and getting one step wrong can have a profound impact on the game’s outcome.

Since it is essential to get steps right, the 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 can get complex and require detailed planning, it is likely that players would make mistakes. Thankfully, the game features a mechanism that allows reverting 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 the best RPG board games where the game was highly praised for its role-playing capabilities. Additionally, if a one-player 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.

Features and Specifications:
  • Players: 1 - 4
  • Duration: 60–240 minutes
  • Age: 14+ years
  • Complexity: Heavy
  • Designer: Vlaada Chvatil
  • Artist: J. Lonnee, et al.
  • Publisher: WizKids
  • Year Published: 2011
  •  
Bottom Line

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.

PROS
travel, puzzles and lots of dungeon crawling Best fantasy solo board game period
feed an amazing quest Character progression is brilliant
An immersive and engaging gameplay
Painted miniatures
CONS
Rulebook is hard to read
expensive quest box Not newcomer friendly
long campaign Long setup and lengthy play

2. Best Solitare Board Game For Casual Play – Friday

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.

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.

Friday is a great way to start and try solo mode. It is light and easy and if that is what you are after - a good solitaire board game that should be on your short list.

In essence, Friday is a deck-building card game where you grow your play deck as the game progresses.

The idea is to build a deck with the most useful 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, you emerge victorious and win the game.

The rules 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.

Features and Specifications:
  • Players: 1
  • Duration: 25 minutes
  • Age: 10+ years
  • Complexity: Easy
  • Designer: Friedemann Friese
  • Artist: Harald Lieske, et al.
  • Publisher: 2F-Spiele
  • Year Published: 2011
  •  
Bottom Line

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.

PROS
Difficulty level can be adjusted
based on famous books Very portable
fun Simple, strategic and fun to play
lots of theme Great and short filler game
CONS
Artwork feels plain and dated

3. Best Single Player Board Game on the Run – Onirim

Have you watched the movie “Inception”? If you have and you liked it, there is a good chance that you will truly enjoy playing Onirim.

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 a remarkably enjoyable 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 that 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. It is recommended to mix in a couple of expansions as the game remains streamlined yet gets an additional flavor. Conversely, including all expansions at once makes the game frustrating and barely playable.

If you like abstract games and themes, Onirim is easily one of top 10 solo games out there. A truly unique experience in the world of dreams!
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’s playing time is the shortest in our review and is timed 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 the darkness and remain trapped in the world of dreams forever.

Although it is predominantly a single-player game, it can also work with two players. It makes it an excellent choice for couples and friends.

Features and Specifications:
  • Players: 1 - 2
  • Duration: 15 minutes
  • Age: 8+ years
  • Complexity: Easy
  • Designer: Shadi Torbey
  • Artist: Élise Plessis
  • Publisher: Z-Man Games
  • Year Published: 2010
  •  
Bottom Line

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, 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, welcome one of the best abstract solo board games around.

PROS
muli faceted puzzles Beautiful artwork
brilliant abstract stories Thematic and immersive gameplay
expensive with all expansions Works well with 2 players
CONS
Card special abilities are not printed on the cards and need to be looked up in the rulebook
A lot of shuffling

4. Best Solo Card Game – The Lord of the Rings: Card Game

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.

You start your game with three heroes and a starting deck. Each turn your heroes get a resource token which can be used to acquire equipment (e.g., shield, sword, etc.), trigger certain events or call allies for support.

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.

Looking for the best solo deck building game experience? The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a perfect game for a single player.

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. Conversely, for the ones who enjoy challenges and strategic thinking, will find the game to be amongst the top board games for one player out there.

The components are well designed and feature an artwork that has great aesthetics and drips with the theme.

Although there are multiple expansions available, I suggest starting with a base game. It comes with enough cards to have a full-featured experience. Unlike other LCG (i.e., Living Card Games) games that tease you with a limited card set and expect you to buy expansions, the game provides a full-scale experience right out of the box.

Features and Specifications:
  • Players: 1 - 2
  • Duration: 30 - 60 minutes
  • Age: 12+ years
  • Complexity: Medium
  • Designer: Nate French
  • Artist: Even Mehl Amundsen, et al.
  • Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
  • Year Published: 2011
  •  
Bottom Line

Overall, if you are looking for the best solo deck building card experience, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is an excellent game. 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 evil and enjoy the game throughout this thematic journey.

PROS
one of the top LCG boardgames stories One of the best LCGs out there
evil, but full of hope Beautiful design and well-made components
multi scenario campaigns Endless expansion content
one person game review pro Also great with two players
CONS
Can feel random at times
A couple of unfortunate negative events can end the game

5. Best Solo Adventure – Robinson Crusoe

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 and you have to do everything 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. Finding food, building a shelter, fighting wild animals, and protecting yourself from severe weather conditions are only some of the challenges waiting for you.

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.

Robinson Crusoe is one of the top choices for single person board games, but it plays just as well with 2,3 or 4 players.

The game comes with multiple scenarios and packs a lot of playtimes. Moreover, due to the excellent variety of random events, character traits, and abilities, playing the same scenario twice does not feel repetitive.

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 that 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 that guarantees 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.

Features and Specifications:
  • Players: 1 - 4
  • Duration: 60 - 120 minutes
  • Age: 12+ years
  • Complexity: Heavy
  • Designer: Ignacy Trzewiczek
  • Artist: Tomasz Bentkowski, et al.
  • Publisher: Portal Games
  • Year Published: 2012
  •  
Bottom Line
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 player board games wearing a survival theme.
PROS
One of the most thematic solo 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
CONS
hard to continue learning with poor campaign guide Poorly structured and complex rulebook
Plain tokens

6. Best One Player Euro Game – Viticulture Essential Edition

Have you ever wanted to own a vineyard? Now with Viticulture Essential Edition, you can!

The Essential edition is an extended and revised version of the original game that packs a lot of value. It comes with multiple expansions, including the one that enables a solitaire 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 aim 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 top 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 activities central to winemaking are:

  1. Acquire vines for your fields
  2. Plant vines in your fields
  3. Harvest grapes and collect tokens for your crush pad
  4. Make wine by moving it from the crush pad to the cellar
  5. Fulfill wine orders

Other actions on the board game are supporting activities 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.

For any Euro board games fans, Viticulture is set to deliver an amazing solo experience, but make sure to buy an Essential Edition as the base game does not support solo mode.

The game also has a concept of seasons. This makes some actions more applicable for particular seasons of the year, so you need to make sure you get your timing right.

To support a single-player, 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 this time around, you may want to reconsider it. The game is incredibly thematic, especially for Euro-style games which are known to be dull and sometimes even boring. In fact, I have never thought I could enjoy making wine so much!

Features and Specifications:
  • Players: 1 - 6
  • Duration: 45 - 90 minutes
  • Age: 12+ years
  • Complexity: Medium
  • Designer: Morten Monrad Pedersen, et al.
  • Artist: Jacqui Davis, et al.
  • Publisher: Stonemaier Games
  • Year Published: 2015
  •  
Bottom Line

Viticulture Essential Edition has challenged our perception of what a Euro-style worker placement game could look like. It delivers a surprisingly thematic and fulfilling 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 a person’s experience or preference, Viticulture 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 belong in every solo gamer’s collection.

PROS
Surprisingly thematic
Beautiful artwork
High-quality game components
Only takes 3 minutes to setup
The rulebook is clear and easy to read
CONS
Some may find luck to be a decisive factor

7. Best Solo Board Game On The Go – Hostage Negotiator

Hostage Negotiator is a single-player only card game where you take on the 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 dice rolls. 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 the spend phase, you use conversation points earned previously to buy new cards.

Lastly, in the terror phase, bad things happen as the card from the terror deck is played triggering a negative event.

Looking for a one player negotiation challenge? Hostage Negotiator is one of the top solitaire card games that is set to deliver it in spades.

The game has pretty simple rules and takes around 20 minutes to play, give or take. This makes it accessible to a broad public, given that of course, you are fine with the theme.

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.

Features and Specifications:
  • Players: 1
  • Duration: 20 minutes
  • Age: 14+ years
  • Complexity: Easy
  • Designer: A. J. Porfirio
  • Artist: Kristi Harmon, et al.
  • Publisher: Van Ryder Games
  • Year Published: 2015
  •  
Bottom Line

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!

PROS
Delivers a simple, challenging and tense gaming experience
Great solo filler game
Very portable
Cool expansions available
CONS
Theme may not be for everyone

8. Best Steampunk Solitaire Board Game – Scythe

Scythe is a competitive board game for 1 to 5 players, which features a specially designed solo mode. It has won many accolades one of which is the prestigious Origins game of the year award.

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.

Scythe is unique in many ways, for starters, it is set in an alternate stark but beautiful and unique steampunk world created by Jakub Rozalskiit.

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, you get to lead one of five factions 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, control areas, collect resources, recruit militia, build things, and engage large mech machines to give you the tactical advantage.

The close to perfect implementation of the Steampunk universe make Scythe one of the best solitaire area control board games we have played to date.

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.

If Steampunk is your thing - Scythe is simply a remarkable one person board game.

As previously mentioned, the game features a specially designed solo 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 the pleasure playing. Everything seems to be clear, accessible, and makes perfect sense. You won’t find yourself going through the rule book finding that particular condition that sometimes applies and sometimes doesn’t.

In addition, the game lets you select one of four levels of play difficulty to match your solo adventurer 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.

Features and Specifications:
  • Players: 1 - 5
  • Duration: 90 - 115 minutes
  • Age: 13+ years
  • Complexity: Medium
  • Designer: Jamey Stegmaier
  • Artist: Jakub Rozalski
  • Publisher: Stonemaier Games
  • Year Published: 2016
Bottom Line

Scythe is a unique and extremely thematic steampunk solo adventure. Given the custom made solo system and the fact that the game 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.

PROS
Stunning artwork
most popular travel through steampunk ages Decision-driven (not luck) strategic board game
hide the game too much replay value! Loads of replay value
Works great with any number of players
love little downtime Low downtime between turns
CONS
Learning curve may feel slightly steep
Needs a big table to play

9. Best Single Player Board Game in Space – Terraforming Mars

Terraforming Mars is based on the series of sci-fi novels Mars Trilogy written by Kim Stanley Robinson.

The action takes place in the 25th century where 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.

Not only is it one of the top rated 1 person board games around, it can be equally enjoyed with any number of players up to four.

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 animal life to the planet.

Every time 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 water 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 component quality. Cards and 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.

Features and Specifications:
  • Players: 1 - 5
  • Duration: 120 minutes
  • Age: 12+ years
  • Complexity: Medium
  • Designer: Jacob Fryxelius
  • Artist: Isaac Fryxelius
  • Publisher: FryxGames
  • Year Published: 2016
  •  
Bottom Line

Terraforming Mars is a great strategy board 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 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 one player board games in our galaxy!

PROS
lots of puzzles Deeply thematic
Fun and rewarding gaming experience
race to the top by rolling dice Over 200 unique action cards
CONS
Component quality is not great
May take up to 3 hours

10. Best Civil War – This War of Mine

This War of Mine: The Board Game is a tabletop adaptation of the critically acclaimed video game released in 2014.

The game was inspired by the events of the 1992–1996 Siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. It aims to depict the true side of wartime and civil collapse which is more about survival than warfare.

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 wargames on the market, we’ve got something very different this time around.

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.

For anyone looking for a deeply thematic and intense feeling only the most remarkable solo board games can deliver - This War of Mine is one of a kind.

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, it only plays great as a solo due to the excessive wait time between turns.

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 as it delivers a unique atmosphere and feel nothing out there can match. This War of Mine is probably the best single-player board game survival experience we have ever had.

Bottom Line

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.

Features and Specifications:
  • Players: 1 - 6
  • Duration: 45 - 120 minutes
  • Age: 16+ years
  • Complexity: Medium
  • Designer: Michał Oracz, Jakub Wiśniewski
  • Artist: Paweł Niziołek, et al.
  • Publisher: Awaken Realms
  • Year Published: 2017
  •  
PROS
Deep and immersive experience
days of quest, travel and fantasy time Amazing storytelling
Great design and component quality
Incredible attention to details
CONS
Lengthy setup
No positive way to win the game
Can be really long (if you survive)

Things You Need To Know Before Buying Solo Board Games

There are two different design approaches to get your head around. Board games that are designed specifically for a solitaire play and the ones 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 the extra mile. They have included a full-scale experience for both. In other words, a fully supported solitaire 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 a great 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 hope we have done in our best single-player board games review today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the types of solo board games?

There are many games on the market that support solitaire play. At the same time, it is important to understand the difference between the two types of games. The first is called one-hand and the second is two-hand.

“One-hand” solo board games – those are board games that are usually specifically designed for a solo play. In essence, ‘one-hand’ means that you do not need to change hands in terms of cards or characters that other players would have played.

“Two-hand” solo board games – most of the time, board games are designed for a group play. They can later get adapted for a solo play and feature some special rules, which most of the time would make them a ‘two hand’. It is implied that you take on the roles of other players, characters, and cards in turns. For example, if the game is set up with 3 characters, then you would play each character one by one.

What is the difference between solitaire and solo gaming?

The short answer is – there are no differences. There are simply multiple ways to refer to board games that support one-person gameplay. You may have also heard people refer to those board games as solitaire board games, single-player board games, one player board games or solo board games.

Are the above games playable by a single player only?

No, most of the board games in our review support multiple players. Having said that, the experience may be very different compared to playing them solo. Friday and Hostage Negotiator are the only two board games that support a single-player mode only. Refer to the Quick Comparison table above for details.

Do I need to buy board game expansions?

No, you do not need to buy board game expansions for any of the reviewed board games above. At the same time, adding an expansion may result in a better or more variable gaming experience. Sadly, it is not always the case and it is recommended to do some research upfront. In summary, none of the board games we have recommended require expansion to have a good solo time playing a board game.

What is an LCG?

LCG stands for Living Card Game. The term has been trademarked by Fantasy Flight Games. It refers to card games that have the base set of cards included in the box, with more cards being later released as expansions. In summary, the cards that come with the box are usually not sufficient to have a good time, but one or two expansion packs usually make a big improvement to the gameplay and may be all you need. Just watch out not to get caught up in the expansion pack frenzy.

What is an Engine Building Board Game?

When picking games to play, it is essential to understand the mechanics it comes with as some of them may make or break the experience. One of those critical mechanics is engine building.

The concept is based on the capitalist idea of re-investing whatever gets produced. In essence, you get to create, then invest the proceeds, enhance the production line, collect the resources produced, and repeat the cycle. The concept assumes that each time becomes more an more efficient delivering more resources. It is called an engine as every turn the system produces resources that players get to pick and make the most use of them.