It’s that time of year again! The time when the solo community on BoardGameGeek votes for the 200 best solo games. After a few years in the hobby I’ve decided to also submit a list this year with my favourite 20 solo boardgames.
I used PubMeeple to make the list and it has become an interesting mix of games. You will see all kind of games, the big and heavy ones and the small and simple ones. This has to do with having a toddler and a baby and sometimes less free time than I would like to. The bigger games are the one I save for holidays or longer evenings and the smaller ones get to the table during nap times.
I love reading other peoples favourite lists to find new and interesting games so hopefully this list will inspire others the same way!
20 Mage Knight Board Game
Mage Knight is an adventure board game designed by Vlaada Chvátil and published by WizKids. The game allows you to become powerful a Mage Knight, exploring a mystical realm, completing quests, and battling fierce monsters along the way.
One of the most impressive features of Mage Knight is its highly customizable gameplay. With a modular board that can be arranged in different configurations, you can create unique scenarios and challenges for each playthrough. In addition, each Mage Knight has its own deck of cards that can be customized with different skills, spells, and abilities, allowing you to tailor your character to your individual playstyle.
Mage Knight was my first big, solo game so I think it will always hold a special place in my heart. I don’t play it very often but when I do it is always a very rewarding experience. I love being able to quickly acquire new skills and powers and you always have a lot of control over the route you want to take to (hopefully) victory.
19 Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition
I like Terraforming Mars but I like Ares Expedition better when it comes to solo play. Some of the streamlining they’ve added to the game really enhances the solo experience. The game itself is fun to me because of the combos you can make and the way you can build your engine to do more and more powerful things. The solo also isn’t difficult to learn or to so, no complicated automas to run or anything.
18 Three Sisters
Three Sisters is an excellent roll and write with a nice garden theme. The solo is also easy to control with Edith blocking some options on the action board and sometimes crossing out some of your crops. You have to be mindful of this so you can still build towards nice combos on your sheet. But otherwise you just grow crops and add new equipment to your shed (upgrades) to become a better and better gardener.
17 Raiders of the North Sea
The base game felt a little lacklustre to me and I don’t like running an AI digitally (there is an app for the AI) but after adding the expansion this game has really shot up in my ranking! The AI deck is easy to use but can sometimes really force you to make sub-optimal choices (which I like because a real opponent would do the same) and the new modules add variety and a bit more complexity to the game. All while keeping the base gameplay flow intact. I also like the fact that it is a worker placement but not a standard one. You place workers of certain colours and then get back workers of another colour to use again. This trade-off is something you can really use to your advantage if you think ahead and plan your turns accordingly.
16 Spirit Island
I don’t think I need to say much about this game because it’s such a solo darling and much has been said already. In this game you are a spirit (or multiple) fighting against invaders on your island. You do this by playing cards with slow or fast powers and collaborating with the Dahan (original inhabitants) while the invaders keep invading different parts of the island. You can play true solo with one character or combine multiple (which is more fun in my opinion) and because it’s a coop game no changes are needed to play alone.
15 It’s a Wonderful World
This is a pretty simple game, once you understand the rules you will probably never have to learn them again which I appreciate. But it’s also not just a run of the mill engine building game. I like that the cards you draw can always be useful, either to build them or to trade them in for a resource. You always feel like you are doing something. It’s also nice that the cards can enhance each other and smart combinations can lead to a lot of points. It’s very easy to put on the table and I always have fun when I’m playing.
14 Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North
This is a pretty recent addition to my collection but I’ve been really liking this game. It’s reasonably simple but there are still a lot of decisions to make throughout the game. The artwork is also adorable which makes it fun to play. When you start the game you truly feel like you’ll get nothing done, but slowly but surely you will build more and be able to do better things every turn. The solo is easy to manage, you are essentially blocking yourself from doing the same action every turn. This ensures that you have to think about your actions and when they will be most beneficial to perform.
13 Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island
The one thing you will read about this game is how hard it is and that is definitely something I have experienced myself. I’m not particularly good at this game at all. But I still enjoy playing this game when I have the time. The thing I enjoy the most is the emerging narrative throughout a gameplay session. It’s such an immersive experience, even when I get eaten or starve to death all the time. The only downside is the randomness that can occur with the dice and the card draws but that’s easy to mitigate when you don’t want it to happen.
12 Atlantis Rising (Second Edition)
When I win this game it is always by the skin of my teeth and that’s something I appreciate about this game a lot. Slowly big pieces of land will sink beneath the ocean and you really feel the urgency of making the right decisions at the right time. The different powers and artifacts ensure that the game feels slightly different every time you play and the variable parts of the machine that you need to build enforce this feeling. For me it feels like a superior pandemic with less complete randomness and more agency while still being a race against the clock. It’s a cooperative game so there is nothing extra or different when playing solo, you simply play two characters.
It’s hard to describe what exactly is so fun about Cascadia. The premise is so simple; draw tiles and tokens, put them down to form a map and make combinations that will score you points. But when you put it all together you get a very quick and satisfying game. The setup is very minimal (draw the correct amount of tiles and choose the scoring cards) and the solo is super easy (remove the rightmost tile and token after every turn).
10 A Feast for Odin
This is my favourite Uwe game by far. I really like the theme but mainly enjoy the sandbox nature of this game. There are many ways in which you can score points and it can really depend on what comes out what the ideal strategy will be. And of course it’s always fun to put down polyomino pieces and use those to get extra resources. The solo is also kind of brilliant, every turn you alternate between two player colours and leave the previous colours meeples on the board. This way you are blocking yourself the next turn. Which means you have to think ahead about what you want to do and when you want to do it.
9 Underwater Cities
Underwater Cities does some fun things with card placement and plays really well solo which is why it is in my top ten. In this game you use your cards to do certain actions and if the colour of the card matches the colour of the action you can also perform the action on the card. Your goal is to put down cities and connect them to each other so humanity can live underwater. To do this you will need to acquire loads of resources and use actions to build cities and tunnels.
8 Dinosaur Island: Rawr ’n Write
I’m a pretty big fan of the roll and write genre (there are four in this list!) and this is the one I like most for its theme. As a big fan of Jurassic Park this game is a lot of fun to play. All the cards with professions and buildings fit the theme really well and the art on them is great. Even though you are just putting down squares and lines in your park I can easily visualise the theme park I’m building. The solo is also easy to run, you draw six dice, roll them and then you flip an AI card. This card tells you which two dice you will have to remove. Then you pick two dice for yourself and from the remaining dice you will get the resources from one and the threat (negative) from the other. It’s easy to mitigate the lost dice from the AI and you have a lot of agency over the dice you pick and how much threat its worth to pick the better resources. The game plays fairly quickly as well so it’s easy to grab and thus leaves the shelf often.
I’m a sucker for good art and cute animals so no wonder I like Everdell so much. I’m not the biggest fan of the standard solo, but the Everdell Unrigged solo is great. It’s definitely fun to build your town of cute animals while also trying to make the best combinations to score the most points and get as many achievements as you can.
6 Ark Nova
As I’m writing this list I’m noticing I obviously have a certain fondness for games that include animals. So it’s no wonder I like this one. But I also like it because it has so much to offer. There are a lot of parts to this game and I like all of them. I like building my tableau of cards and combining them just right, I love building my zoo and adding the enclosures and I enjoy the challenge of reaching goals and milestones along the way. It’s a long and big game but you get rewarded for that. The solo is also easy to run and very straightforward. I’ve heard a lot about the solo versions on BGG that make a game feel more like the multiplayer game but, honestly, I like the solo that’s included. It’s easy to run and I enjoy the challenge of getting shorter and shorter rounds to accomplish your goals.
5 Lost Ruins of Arnak
I love worker placement and deck building so it’s no surprise that I like Lost Ruins of Arnak. I also have Dune Imperium (unplayed) on my shelf but the theme and the artwork of Arnak make it the one I always want to grab. It’s also pretty easy going rules wise and there is a good variety in the cards and guardians so every game feels slightly different. I do think the optimal strategy is pretty obvious after some plays (research track) but that is where the solo campaign comes in. This adds a fun new challenge to the game and always makes me rethink how I play.
4 Hadrian’s Wall
For a long time this was my favourite roll and write ever. It has been surpassed by Twilight Inscription now but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good game. I love the fact that this feels like a big and difficult game with lots of decisions but with minimal setup and a very reasonable play time. The solo is basically the same as the normal game so no difficult AI to run or anything. And there is even a solo campaign that challenges you to try new strategies to accomplish the goals. The reason I rate Twilight Inscription higher is because I have played a ton of games of Hadrian’s Wall and I’ve noticed I do go for the same sort of strategy and order of play most times. Once you find an efficient strategy the game doesn’t really challenge you to go a different way.
3 Twilight Inscription
Twilight Inscription hasn’t been out very long yet so how can it already be so high on my list? Because it’s a great game! Let me first of all clarify that I’ve never played its big brother, so I won’t be comparing it to that at all. I just look at it as a great, big roll and write and it’s pretty great at that. Once you learn the rules it’s a straightforward game, especially because you only activate one (of the four) sheet per turn. Which means you stay focussed on a certain aspect each time. What makes it fun, in my opinion, is the fact that there are a lot of things different from game to game. You draw the cards for your turn, you play a certain faction each game, the voting cards are different and the relics are different. You can’t just do the same things in the same order each time and get a good result, you will need to adapt to the circumstances. This is especially true with the solo variant, where you also have to take into account what the AI is doing and what cards (and thus points) might disappear next turn. It’s easy to setup but really challenges you and for that it is my (current) favourite roll and write.
I don’t play Anachrony nearly enough because it’s such a big game to set up. But it’s the game that made me fall in love with solo boardgaming and I think that love will never go away. I have the original version and I love playing against the bot. It’s easy to control yet really feels like you are playing against a real opponent. I also love the worker placement where you have to power up your mech suits and then go out to collect resources. And there is enough variability to make it feel like a different game every time.
1 Paladins of the West Kingdom
This might not be the most ‘standard’ choice as a number one solo game but Paladins is by far my favourite game. And it is not due to one specific thing but more a combination of all kinds of things this game does so well. The solo AI is easy to run and presents a real challenge. The different cards and goals make it feel new and fresh every time. You have so many paths to take and ways to gain points so you never feel like you’re wasting a turn. And it’s just a lot of fun to build up your game, to place a meeple on a space, which triggers a thing, which in turn gives you the ability to get a card or resource etc. I love playing this solo and even though it’s probably not a perfect game, the fun I have every time I play is why it is number one for me.
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