If you want to play a game solo, there are a lot of great options. Perhaps you don’t have a regular gaming group, maybe you just want to enjoy some free time alone, or maybe you want to try out something a bit different.
I didn’t really play many solo games prior to COVID, much preferring the social interaction I get from playing board games with a group. But with social lockdowns from COVID, I started playing a lot of the popular solo board games and found I really enjoyed them, as it’s quite a different experience from playing with a group. I really started to enjoy the time to myself and find it a relaxing pastime.
One thing I’ve found is that I can get a lot more complex games to the table when playing solo, and you’ll see that reflected in the list. While my gaming group tends to be a bit more casual, when playing by myself I can take the time to play complex games with lots of decisions or text to read and not have to worry about explaining the rules to someone else or keeping them waiting while I analyze what moves I want to take.
With so many solo board games out there, or games that offer a solo mode, these are the ones that I think work best for one player:
Best Board Games For 1 Person – Quick Comparison
|Rank||Name||# Players||Time||Complexity||Good For|
|#1||Spirit Island||1-4||90-120 mins||Difficult||Best overall|
|#2||Arkham Horror LCG||1-4||1-2 hours||Difficult||Best Thematic Experience|
|#3||Under Falling Skies||1||20-40 minutes||Medium||Most Accessible|
1. Best Overall: Spirit Island
Spirit Island is a complex game for 1 – 4 players (that plays well solo or in a group) and takes 1.5 – 3 hours.
In this game, you are spirits that live on an island, and Europeans have come to take over the island and are ruining the environment. You need to fight back the invaders to protect the island by using your spirit powers, such as by creating flash floods, with each type of spirit having very different abilities.
In this game, you have elements of area control and action-taking to fight and scare the invaders away. There is a lot of synergy between how the different spirits work, and as a solo player you may find yourself wanting to play multiple spirits to get the full experience, which can be quite challenging.
This is an amazing experience for those who like strategy games. Each game plays differently, and there are so many options and different strategies that you’ll keep coming back to play them again and again.
- Very thematic
- Lots of decisions to make
- Different spirits all play differently
- Always feels like a different scenario
- It doesn’t feel scary but is a pretty dark theme
- Complex game which is probably too much for very casual gamers
- Lots of decisions can lead to analysis paralysis
2. Best Thematic Experience: Arkham Horror LCG
It is a complex game for 1 – 4 players (that plays well solo or in a group) that takes about 1 – 2 hours to play.
This is a Lovecraftian game where you are trying to figure out what is wrong in the town of Arkham (for those unfamiliar with the franchise, there are eldritch horrors breaking the barriers to our world that are making bad things happen).
You do this by playing a character that has a deck of cards that represents their skills and equipment, and you play through scenarios where you have to do certain things before enough agenda cards come out that the bad guys win, or before you go insane.
This game works very well solo as you just play as normal through the adventure with no additional rules needed. It’s the closest you may get to playing a full RPG on your own using a card game, with great character creation and exploration.
Great storyline, very thematic, great gameplay, but a bit of a commitment money-wise as being an LCG, you’ll want to get the core plus another box or two to play.
- Very thematic
- Fantastic plot and exploration experience
- Great characters
- Can adjust difficulty
- The starter box only comes with 3 campaigns, they are replayable, but you’ll inevitably want more
- Expensive (as you’ll want a few more sets after the core box)
- A complex game with a lot of rules
3. Most Accessible: Under Falling Skies
It’s a medium complexity game for 1 player (so no group mode) that takes around 20 – 40 minutes to play.
In this game, you are defending a city against an alien invasion. There is a standard game mode, as well as a campaign mode where you get to work through different missions with different win conditions.
The mechanics of this game are really interesting, you roll dice and then take actions by placing them in different places in your base, which also affects how the aliens behave.
This game has accessible rules, and is easy to learn, and is a great puzzle-like experience. It takes just the right amount of time by being quick enough to get to the table lots but it’s not so short that there isn’t any strategy.
- Designed specifically for solo play
- Lots of content in the campaign
- Can adjust the difficulty
- Low luck and high skill
- It can feel a bit more like a puzzle to solve than a game
- Gameplay doesn’t feel too different between the games, even with the campaign mode
- It can only be played solo
4. Best War Game: This War of Mine
This War of Mine is a complex game for 1 – 6 players (but plays best with 1) that takes 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. This game does have quite a lot of rules, but they all fit in with what you’d expect to happen, and it is very well explained.
In this board game, you play a person in a war-torn city trying to survive. This is a board game version of the video game with the same name, so if you enjoyed that (or enjoy similar survival games), you will enjoy this as it is quite a faithful adaption.
In this game, you control a group of survivors in a war-torn city, and you have to survive by finding food and water, protecting yourself, and not getting sick or injured. You do this by playing player actions to determine what your players are doing, and then you flip cards that cause bad things to happen.
There are also scenarios that add additional goals you need to achieve to win (eg. both members of a couple need to survive), which gives the game a lot of replayability.
This game is punishing and brutal but also very engrossing at the same time.
- Amazing storytelling that will draw you in
- It really evokes a feeling of survival and a sense of desperation
- Feels tense and nail-biting
- Difficult – you will die
- Long set up time
- Can be stressful
- Deals with difficult themes
5. Best Strategy: Paladins of the West Kingdom
Paladins of the West Kingdom is a complex game for 1 – 4 players (it plays well solo or in a group) that takes around 1.5 – 2 hours to play.
In Paladins, the city and neighboring towns are being plundered by Vikings, and your job is to earn the most victory points by being a paladin that protects the town.
This game is a worker placement game where you have your own board and you are getting your players to take actions, and using these actions to build up an engine. With engine building being one of my favorite gaming mechanisms, it just had to make the list. This game is great because it’s very strategic and there are a ton of options in what actions to take.
The solo version of this game works by giving you an AI opponent that is run by flipping cards. This opponent doesn’t feel predictable, and will really make moves that annoy you and are exactly what you don’t want your opponent to do.
While this game plays great with a group, I prefer it solo as with a group it feels a bit like multiplayer solitaire, and playing solo leaves you with no downtime and always making interesting decisions.
- A strategic game with a lot of action options
- Great solo or with a group
- Solo mode gives the same kind of experience as with a group
- Long setup time
- Heavy eurogame without much theme
- The number of action choices is not good if you have analysis paralysis
6. Best Farming: Fields of Arle
Fields of Arle is a medium complexity game for 1 – 2 players (and plays well at either) that takes around 1 to 2 hours to play.
This is a farming game where your aim is to keep a farm running. You get a number of actions for both winter and summer over 9.5 years of game time. The actions you use let you make a prosperous farm by working the land and producing resources, using various tools to produce things that are worth more (eg. using a weaving loom to create cloth or milking livestock), and then shipping those goods.
If you’ve played Agricola or Caverna, it’s quite similar in feel but less punishing. It feels a little bit more like a sandbox and has a lot of different strategies. The solo version of this game is about getting the most points (and beating the number of points you got last time), which I don’t generally like that much, but I think this mechanism works really well in this case because it’s super satisfying to create your own farm.
- Lots of different strategies
- Less punishing and overwhelming than other Uwe Rosenburg games
- Very satisfying
- Lots of replay value
- Takes a lot of table space
- A lot going on
- Prone to Analysis Paralysis
7. Best Survival: Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island
Robinson Crusoe is a very complex game for 1 – 6 players (but plays best with a single player) that takes around 1 – 2 hours.
This is one of the most immersive games that I have played. The theme is that you land shipwrecked on a cursed tropical island and you need to survive. You’ll need to find food, build shelter, and construct tools and weapons to survive.
There are also campaigns with stories of what’s happened on the island, things like exploring underground cities, finding pirates’ treasure, or discovering a cursed temple.
The mechanism of this game works by flipping cards to move forward with the adventure, and you need to roll dice to determine if your actions are successful. While neither of these is my favorite mechanism, this game feels like a fantastic adventure experience the whole way through. So if you are looking to sit down and play through a great story experience, this is the game for you.
- Gives a great sense of achievement
- Very thematic
- It feels like playing through an amazing movie adventure
- It’s hard to learn with a lot of rules
- Difficult game – you’ll be losing lots
- Luck-based elements – between card flips and dice rolls, you don’t have full control over what happens in the adventure
8. Best RPG: Mage Knight Board Game
Mage Knight is a very complex game for 1 – 4 players (but plays best solo) that takes 1 – 4 hours.
No list of solo board games would be complete without Mage Knight, as it’s one of the most popular solo board games out there. The reason it’s #8 for me is that it’s quite complex, so it needs the dedication to get to the table, and I prefer my RPGs to have a larger roleplaying element and be less combat-heavy.
But that being said, if you have the time and space, this game really is amazing. It’s a fantasy RPG fighting game where you are in control of a mage knight as you explore and conquer. You get to build and progress a character with powerful items and spells, build an army, explore dungeons, and take over cities.
This is an immersive and deep gaming experience, and if you are looking for something to rival an RPG video game experience away from the screen (think World of Warcraft in a box), this is the choice for you.
- Deepest fantasy solo game
- Great character progression
- Playing experience that is immersive and engaging
- Very complex – so many rules
- Lots of analysis paralysis
- Long setup and gameplay
- Some luck-based mechanisms
9. Best Dice Rolling: Too Many Bones
Too Many Bones is a very complex game for 1-4 players (plays well solo or in a group) that takes around 1-2 hours.
This game has a classic “a bad force is taking over the town and you need to get rid of them” storyline, but feels quite unique from other games that I have played with a similar premise. In this game, you pick a tyrant to defeat, and then you pick a character to play as. A lot of the game is about building your character, which is done by building up a pool of dice that you can roll and use for certain actions.
Then you use your character to play through a series of encounters, most of which are fights in which you must defeat the enemies.
If you love tabletop RPG games such as D&D because of the character creation and combat, then this is the perfect game for you.
- Lots of dice to roll!
- Interesting characters with varied development paths
- Fun combats
- Lots of expansions if you get into the game (you could consider this a pro because you can get more content, but it’s also expensive)
- Complex rules with a lot going on
- Fights can feel like a grind after a while
10. Best Quick Game: Friday
Friday is a light game that is made to be a solo game and takes around 25 minutes to play.
In this game, you are Friday helping Robinson Crusoe survive on a desert island by defeating hazards on the island, such as fighting off pirates. While this sounds like it has the same feel as the above Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island game, it plays very differently.
Friday is a super-light game that’s quick to play and is a deck builder. You start off with some pretty bad cards, and you get better and better cards to be able to fight and survive. This feels a bit like a puzzle that you are working through, and once you’ve done it a few times, it will start to feel the same. But while it doesn’t have a ton of replay value, it is fun and cheap and a great option if you are looking for an easy solo game to bring along somewhere or just something easy to unwind to.
- Theme is good
- Light and easy to learn
- Quick and small footprint
- Not a lot of replayability
- Luck of the draw of cards
- Have to be ok with losing
- It can only be played solo
There are a few games that are really great for solo play. A few of these didn’t make it because they are much lighter games with less replay value. Others have great solo modes but never make it out to the table solo with me because they also have great multiplayer and they get out to the table a lot with my gaming group. These also have the advantage that if you play more with a group you still have something that you can occasionally pull out and play on your own.
- Terraforming Mars – This is one of my favorite engine-building games and supposedly has a great solo mode, but I’ve never played it as I like the competitive aspect of this game too much.
- Marvel Champions LCG – it’s similar to the Arkham Horror LCG but superhero-themed, easier, and less story-driven. As it’s a bit more casual I prefer to play this with a group and keep the more complex story-driven LCG for playing alone.
- Oniverse series – This is a series of light board games that are made for 1-2 players and each takes around 15 minutes. They each have different mechanisms, so if you like this type of light puzzly game, each offers a different playing experience and are all pretty good for a light and fun solo game. The games are: Onirim, Sylvion, Castellion, Nautilion, and Aerion.
- Aeons End – Another deck-building game that is a cooperative fantasy fighting game, this one has a great solo mode but is one of my group’s favorites to play, so it rarely makes it out solo.
- Sprawlopolis – This is a great little portable city-building game. It fits in your pocket and does make it out lots in a group or solo when I’m traveling. Button Shy Games makes a bunch of pocket-sized games, and quite a few are also meant to be great to play solo.
There are a lot of different solo board games, with one of the major factors being complexity.
If you are looking for something super complex that you can sink your teeth into for hours then Mage Knight, Too Many Bones, and Robinson Crusoe are some of the best solo board gaming experiences you’ll ever have.
For those wanting something a bit more approachable, Spirit Island is my personal favorite solo game, giving just the right amount of strategy and depth without being too overwhelming to bring to the table. Paladins of the West Kingdom and Fields of Arle are also great strategy games in this category, or Arkham Horror LCG and This War of Mine if you want a more storytelling experience.
Under Falling Skies and Friday are both great options for those looking for something light to throw on the table when they have a spare moment, with a few honorable mentions like Sprawlopolis and Onirim also making frequent appearances at my table when I’m looking for something quick.