13 Best Solo Board Games in 2018
Solo board gaming offers something that was once thought to be impossible. The ability to enjoy a board game all by yourself is incredible, and becoming increasingly important in our fast-paced and time-limited modern lives. You don’t need to get a group of people together in a room at once to enjoy board games anymore – so many great games are now also playable on your own. Also, if you simply need to learn a board game in peace and quiet, with no pressure, playing solo is a great way to do so.
Rules, victory conditions, and strategies can sometimes vary a bit in solo mode, but the fun remains there. All you need is a bit of free time, a table, and the willpower to follow the rules down to the letter. And remember, if you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself.
We trawled through the internet to find the 13 best solo board games in the UK and the USA today. With publishers and Kickstarter projects continuing to work on solo board games, make sure to watch this space, as the next big hit is just around the corner. These games are not listed in any particular order.
1. Mage Knight
|Playing Time:||150 minutes|
No list of best solo board games would be complete without Mage Knight. Created by legendary Czech game designer Vlaada Chvátil, this game launched way back in 2011 and is still widely considered to be one of the best (if not the best) solo board game in existence today. This game has a steep learning curve, but it’s worth it – you’ll be playing it again and again.
If for some reason you do find that the base game isn’t enough for you, check out the Lost Legion expansion. This adds more content, scenarios, and mechanics, as well as creating a more dynamic opponent.
2. Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island
|Players:||1 – 4|
|Playing Time:||60-120 minutes|
This incredibly thematic game takes you to a remote, desert island as a shipwreck survivor. Choose your role from four ship’s characters: Cook, Carpenter, Explorer, or Soldier, and start your adventure. You can even play with multiple characters in solo.
As you would expect to do while surviving in these conditions, the game first takes you through the basics – gathering food, building shelters, and staying safe. As you and your mini civilisation progress, you’ll need to decide where to go from there. Choices and actions have consequences, and you are ultimately in control over your own destiny.
|Playing Time:||25 minutes|
Friday was one of the main characters in Daniel Defoe’s original 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe. While stranded on the Island of Despair, Crusoe discovered that Carib cannibals occasionally came to the island to kill and eat their captives. On one such occasion, Crusoe helped on of the captives escape. Unable to communicate with each other, he named him Friday, after the day that the met. Crusoe then employed Friday as his servant.
In this card-based game you play as Friday, and your objective is to help Robinson Crusoe survive and ultimately escape the island. You’ll be training poor, hapless Robinson new skills and tricks to help him survive and overcome the dangers and hazards of the island, before old age, deteriorating health, and pirates keep him there forever.
Friday is a very thematic and an unexpectedly funny solo game that really grows on you. The more you play the better at it you get. But this doesn’t mean that it gets boring, because you can easily increase the difficulty, making the game tougher to beat. If this isn’t enough, make sure to keep track of your score every time you play so that you can come back and try to beat that score.
This game is short, fun, and very enjoyable. It is also the only game on this list that is strictly one-player only.
4. Star Trek: Frontiers
|Playing Time:||60-120 minutes|
Created by Vlaada Chvátil, this strategic puzzle solving and action economy game features the highly successful model used in Mage Knight, only now implemented in the Star Trek universe.
However, this game is not just a quick rebrand of Mage Knight. Star Trek: Frontiers has been well thought out, featuring improvements that streamline the game, make it more forgiving, and a perfect fit for the Star Trek theme. The rules have also been slightly tweaked to create a less complex game that is very enjoyable.
Although not as demanding as Mage Knight, the learning curve is still high. You will probably need to play this game 2-3 times before you really ‘get it’. But once you do, you won’t regret it.
5. Attack on Titan: Deck-Building Game
|Playing Time:||60-90 minutes|
This deck building game is set in the Attack on Titan anime series universe. Absolutely no knowledge of the show is required to play this game.
The last pockets of humanity are holed up in a great walled city that is under constant threat of outside attack from four mysterious Titans, giant humanoids that attack and eat humans for no apparent reason. A group of youngsters join the army to fight the Titans, and that’s exactly who you are and what what you do in this game.
This is a serious, rollercoarster ride, high intensity, and challenging game. Your goal as a player is to protect your home and the rest of mankind within the walls of the city and eliminate the Titans. The Titans seem intent on destroying the destroying the walls and eradicating all mankind. If you don’t manage to defeat the Titans, they’ll attack a wall, destroy it, and everything behind it. There are five walls protecting the city. Lose them all and you lose the game.
This can be a long game to play, so the manual includes ways to shorten it. By simply removing one of the titans and a few cards from the deck, this game can easily be converted into a shorter version.
6. Viticulture Essential Edition
|Playing Time:||45-90 minutes|
This Kickstarter success story is a worker placement game that sets you in pre-modern Tuscany, where you have just inherited a small vineyard. With three employees, a plot of land, a cellar and a crushpad, your goal is to grow your vineyard into the most successful winery in the land.
The game combines a good mix of luck of the draw card play and building/optimising your wine production capacity. Just like in real business, how you adapt and overcome to deal with new, random situations (cards) will ultimately determine your success or failure as a viticulturist.
This game is very replayable as there are so many avenues to explore and different strategies to try out. Efficient management of your resources is vital if you wish to create the perfect business model. Remember to also keep staff morale at a good level otherwise your business will suffer!
The essential edition takes the original Viticulture and added several modules from the Tuscany expansion to improve and expand gameplay.
If you’re looking for multiplayer, make sure to also check out Wineopoly.
7. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Thames Murders
|Playing Time:||60-120 minutes|
This is a fully updated, modernised, and revised version of the classic tabletop mystery game first published in 1981.
Immerse yourself in Sherlock Holmes’ London solving mysteries and catching criminals. The premise is simple: you are are presented with a mystery that you simply must solve. So get on your feet and get out into Victorian to trace leads, follow clues, talk to witnesses, and gradually eliminate the impossible.
No one is saying this will be easy – some puzzles are tough and clues can be vague. But that’s the fun of this game. You really have to scour the evidence carefully; leave no stone unturned.
Once you think you’ve cracked the case, check your findings with what Holmes himself discovered. The objective is to match his score as closely as possible.
There’s no real time limit by when you have to solve the case. A few hours or several weeks – you can take your time and study the clues and evidence for as long as you wish.
A total of 14 expansions available at time of writing add the option of so many more cases to crack that the chances of running out of these is very slim.
8. New Bedford
|Playing Time:||75 minutes|
Another Kickstarter success story. This worker placement and resource management game places you in the mid 19th century; the golden age of whaling. Things were a bit different back then to how they are now, and your task in this game is to build the town of Bedford, Massachusetts into the whaling hub of the world.
Gather resources, conduct business, construct buildings, pay wages, launch ships, and catch whales. Pay your ships to head out to sea to catch whales. The more you pay them, the farther out they go. The farther out they are, the better their chances of harpooning the big, valuable sperm whales.
After 12 rounds all ships must return to Bedford. All assets (buildings, whales, and cash) are then counted, and the player (you, or one of the other ‘captains’) with the highest score wins.
|Playing Time:||90-115 minutes|
Scythe sets you as a fallen faction leader in an alternate, steampunk style 1920’s Europe. Your mission is to restore your honour and lead your faction to power by carefully managing your workers and resources.
The game is straightforward and easy to learn. Each element is kept simple, but yet perfectly functional and enjoyable to use. An action selection mechanism keeps the game flowing at a quick pace, with no rounds or phases.
Scythe is centred on a well built player mat with slots for your components. It just feels ‘right’; it’s very satisfying to use. Gorgeous artwork, especially on encounter cards paint a vivid picture of the scene. This game really captures your imagination and does a great job of putting you in the scene.
The games gives you almost complete controver over your own fate – save of course for the encounter cards you will draw along the way.
With 13 expansions available, Scythe’s fantastic gameplay will keep you captivated and entertained for a very long time.
If you like games like Settlers of Catan or even the Age of Empires series, you’ll love Scythe.
10. Eldritch Horror
|Playing Time:||120-240 minutes|
Assume the role of a globetrotting investigator and get to work protecting the world! In Eldritch Horror you must gather clues, solve mysteries, and ultimately protect the world from an Ancient One – an elder determined to destroy our world.
With a choice of 12 investigator characters, 250 tokens, and over 300 cards, each and every game will be a new and unique experience. However, if that still isn’t enough, there are 8 expansions available which will add hundreds of hours of extra gameplay.
11. A Feast for Odin
|Playing Time:||30-120 minutes|
A Feast for Odin is a worker placement game, or perhaps more specifically, a Viking economic simulation game. Hunt food, gather materials, construct buildings, develop technology and raid settlements.
With only seven rounds in the ‘long’ version of the game, your strategy is very important right from the start. Choosing a specific strategy and following that strategy up with planned supporting actions is generally better than a jack-of-all-trades approach; you really need to specialise in order to win this game.
Strangely even if you lose in this game, you still feel good. You’ve gained something out of playing it; you’ve learned which strategies work and which ones don’t. And you just want to play again.
If you enjoyed Uwe Rosenberg’s Agricola, you will love A Feast for Odin.
12. Imperial Settlers
|Playing Time:||45-90 minutes|
New lands have been discovered, and settlers from nations all over the glove have moved in to expand their empires. Choose one of Romans, Barbarians, Egyptians or Japanese and begin constructing buildings, gathering resources, crushing your enemies… and scoring precious Victory Points in this game of conquest.
You’ll need to think carefully about the strategy you employ – different nations have their own strengths and weaknesses that will require different strategies if you’re planning on winning. Egyptians should focus on gathering gold, as this can easily be converted into Victory Points. Romans will want to build as many grey buildings as possible, as they have a card that gains points for every one of these buildings built.
You have five rounds to gather as many points as possible and win the game. How you gather them is entirely up to you – pick your strategy wisely!
Imperial Settlers is a must buy for solo gamers. It’s quick to set up, quick to play, and relatively easy to learn. The cartoon-like artwork divides opinion, but we like it.
13. Terraforming Mars
|Playing Time:||120 minutes|
Despite Elon Musk’s hard work, mankind’s terraforming of Mars is still a long way off. Luckily this game will help you visualise just how it works – and you get to be involved in the thick of the action.
You play as one of several corporations working towards the ultimate goal of making the planet habitable for humans. Grow plants, farm animals, build cities, and mine moons. The more you develop the planet, the more cards and options are available to you.
It’s clear that the designers of this game ‘know their Mars’, as playing it can be an educational experience. If you didn’t know how to terraform a planet already, you will after playing this game.
In multiplayer the game ends when the red planet’s temperature is raised from -30℃ to 8℃, oxygen levels rest at 14%, and enough polar ice has melted to cover 9% of the planet in ocean, the game ends. Now just count up your terraform rating to see who wins. In solo player however, the game ends after round 14. Just make sure that terraforming is complete, and you win the game.