Traditionally a group activity, board games are a great way to spend an evening with friends and family, sharing in conversation and friendly competition. But sometimes assembling a group of adults with conflicting schedules can be tough. Luckily, more and more board games are being designed with solo play in mind. From cooperative board games that scale down well to one player or let a single player play two-handed, to board games designed exclusively to be played solo, it’s official: it’s no longer weird to play a board game by yourself. So grab your favorite drink, turn on a podcast or playlist, and crack open one of these great single-player games.
In the years since its 2011 release, Mage Knight has become synonymous with solo gaming. A sprawling fantasy epic from famed designer Vlaada Chvátil, Mage Knight was designed for 1-4 players, but it shines particularly well as a solitary experience. It’s a great choice when you’re in the mood for fighting monsters, upgrading your character, and exploring a fantasy setting. Make sure to set aside a large chunk of time, though, because games can last upwards of three hours, and each turn presents you with a puzzle-like series of actions that require a great deal of optimization.
Most of the games on this list are designed with multiple players in mind and can only be played solo through the use of variant rules. That is not the case with Friday, a deckbuilder designed for exactly one player. Players take on the role of Friday as he assists Robinson Crusoe in becoming a survivalist on their island. As such, the game has a fair share of luck, but it all feels very thematic; your survival deck will improve as you spend more time on the island, which represents Crusoe improving his skills as the years pass. The randomness also lends a fun push-your-luck element to the game that feels triumphant to overcome.
Essentially a nightmare in a box, Onirim is an abstract card game that sees players attempting to escape a labyrinthine dream world. You do this by playing cards of matching colors and alternating symbols in order to open doors in each of the four colors. It’s a simple game with a unique theme and beautiful art by Philippe Guérin and Élise Plessis. The second edition of the game also includes several mini-expansions that can be mixed and matched to provide new ways to play, which leads to a high replay value.
It took an entire fellowship to take the One Ring from Rivendell, but it only takes one to face the forces of Mordor in this living card game (LCG). The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a scenario-based adventure where you will take control of a hero of Middle-Earth and battle orcs, wargs and more using a pre-constructed or custom deck of cards. Easily the most expanded-upon game in this list, LotR has seen an constant stream of new scenarios, heroes, and other augmentations since its 2011 launch; just looking at the list of expansions can be overwhelming. Luckily, there are some great resources to get you started. Each expansion adds not just a new scenario for you to overcome, but new cards to add to your potential card pool.
Step into the shoes of literature’s greatest detective in this board game equivalent of a mystery novel. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective includes a number of scenarios and fun props that really sell the experience. There’s a map of London, an address directory and a newspaper, each offering clues to hunt down and suspects to interview. Be warned, however, that this game does not hold your hand; each adventure presents a small amount of setup and exposition, and then sends you out into the city without much direction, leaving you to decide what locations to visit and who to accuse. This game gives you the chance to live up to Holmes’ reputation, which is a tall order given how though the mysteries can be.
The Shadowrun universe spans decades and many forms of media, from the original tabletop RPG to novels and video games. Released in 2014, Shadowrun: Crossfire gives players a new way to experience the dystopian cyberpunk setting. This deckbuilder puts players into the shoes of runners as they take on jobs like securing valuable data, protecting a VIP, or even taking on a dragon, all while gaining Karma and upgrading their characters. In the solo game, players simply play as two or more runners which is easy thanks to the cooperative nature of Shadowrun: Crossfire.
The second Robinson Cruesoe-themed game on this list, Adventures on the Cursed Island casts players as shipwreck survivors on an island that is actively trying to kill them. There are several different characters to play as, each with various strengths and weaknesses. You will find yourself scavenging for food, building and upgrading shelters, and exploring perilous locations on the island. The game includes rules for a solo variant, but the general consensus is that it’s easier for a single player to simply take on the role of more than one character. There is a lot going on in Robinson Crusoe and the ample iconography can be a bit overwhelming, but those that stick it out will find a rewarding adventure that begs for return trips.
Players take on the role of one of four budding civilizations in this streamlined empire-builder from designer Ignacy Trzewiczek. Imperial Settlers’ intuitive ruleset makes growing your empire a simple matter of playing cards in order to produce resources, then using those resources to play stronger cards. This snowball effect becomes incredibly satisfying in late game turns when you are able to combo cards off of each other in order to make hugely productive moves. This makes Imperial Settlers a game of optimization that feels great when played together, or when using the included solo campaign variant. If the base game manages to become stale after several plays, you can pick of one of the many expansions to add some replayability.
Viticulture is a fairly simple worker placement game where you run a vineyard and oversee the winemaking process from growing the grapes to selling the wine. You also give winery tours, choose what grapes to grow, build helpful structures, and adapt to the changing seasons. Time management plays an important mechanical role in Viticulture, because the earlier you choose to wake up, the better your turn options are. The solo rules include an AI player in the form of a deck of “automa” cards, and could not be simpler to employ. Simply draw one of the automa cards to dictate what the AI player does, then adapt your strategy to those circumstances.
A heist simulator from the makers of the stellar Paperback, Burgle Bros. is a cooperative game of stealth and exploration. You take on the role of one of several would-be burglars as they make their way through three floors of a skyscraper crawling with guards, laser traps, fingerprint scanners, vaults and more. The goal is to open three safes–one on each floor–and each character has a special ability to help reach that goal a bit easier. For example, the Hacker does not trigger alarms, and the Acrobat may move from one floor to another in one turn. Burgle Bros. is a unique game with a very strong theme, and playing solo is just a matter playing the role of more than one character. SOURCE: IGN.com