Hey everyone, in this article we’re looking at 40 essential board games for solo gamers.
A few rules before we get started: this list contains only games that are available on retail or on the publisher’s site at the time of publishing . You won’t find expensive out-of-print Kickstarter stuff in there, my personal opinion being that if a game is out of print or basically impossible to find at a reasonable price, it is not essential. This means there are really great solo games that you will not find in this list, sorry about that. (I do have a few of those in the “you might like” section for each game though!)
I’ve also tried to include a variety of genre and gameplay mechanics. As a result I’ve included games that I myself don’t like, but that I think deserve to be in a list of “essentials”. I’ve tried to be as objective as possible, while still weighing in a bit for games I personally really enjoy.
Last but not least, this list was also published in video format on YouTube in a series of 4 videos, if that’s more your thing:
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40. Black Hole
My first game in this list is a game you probably have never heard of, and that is Black Hole: Kyrum. This is a sci-fi game where you explore planets and do a bit of time travel on the side, with the ultimate goal of piecing together your own story. It’s a one of a kind game and I’ll have a review ready sometimes soon for this game (update: review is here!) which I really recommend. It is a free print and play game so there’s no reason not to try it. Truly a hidden gem.
You might also like: Alternatives include Sleeping Gods for the choose your adventure aspect, Sherlock Holmes for the endgame questions, and Unsettled for the Sci-Fi Planet exploration.
This wouldn’t be a list of essential solo games without Pandemic of course. It’s a staple that has known many declinations. You don’t necessarily need to have the original game, but I feel a solo collection is not complete without at least one pandemic game.
Pathfinder The Adventure Card Game is a game that I put off for a long time because it looked a bit too generic for me and… well it’s kind of true, but it’s still an awesome heroic fantasy game which feels a lot like cardboard Diablo. Your characters just get better gear as you progress through the campaign, which feels awesome. My review here.
You might also like: Alternatives to Onirim include one of the many games set in the Oniverse. I suggest you pick one with a theme that interests you, and if you really like it you can buy more games in this collection. (My Review of one of the Oniverse games, Aerion, here)
36. Pandemic Legacy
I’ve put this one in a different section than pandemic itself, because it is different enough, the legacy aspect was very original at the time, and it’s still a very solid solo game nowadays. If you know Pandemic, Pandemic legacy won’t be a huge surprise in terms of gameplay, but it adds an exciting campaign, playing over 12 to 24 scenarios, with lots of surprises and twists. A one of a kind experience.
The Loop is a game I haven’t tried personally, but that has been on my shopping list forever. It keeps getting recommended so I had to include it in this list of essential solo games. The Loop is a solo/cooperative card game with a time travel twist and game mechanic.
You might also like: If you like bag builders, a personal recommendation of mine is the Brass Age. A very different game for sure, but with a nice bag building strategy. It’s a free print and play game. (My review here)
Rove is an 18 cards puzzle game with a light Science fiction theme. Game sessions last about 15 minutes and it’s a great tiny game you can take everywhere with you. My review here.
You might also like: If you’re looking for quick puzzles, you can give a try to Skulls of Sedlec (+ solo expansion needed)
Horrified has a bit of a pandemic feel to it, except that instead of viruses, you have to contain and destroy monsters from popular movies. It looks really good too and is one of those good value games.
You might also like: If you’re looking for other movie franchises turned solo or cooperative board games, Back to the future Back in time might be for you.
31. The Lord of the Rings – The Card Game
Here again it would be difficult to not include this game in an essential list of solo board games. As a solo player, this deck construction strategy game is one you’ll probably want to play two handed, as some scenarios can be very brutal.
Twilight Inscription is a Roll and Write based on Twilight Imperium. Everybody’s been praising the design and the gameplay, and I’m guessing it might replace some other roll and writes in people’s heart this year.
You might also like: If you’re looking for simpler but enjoyable roll and writes, Voyages is a favorite of mine (my review). People who like Twilight Inscription also recommend Dune Imperium a lot.
29. Black Sonata
Black Sonata is one of those unique games that has no equivalent. It’s an elegant game of hidden movement and deduction for a solo player, in which you have to find the mysterious dark lady. The game is print and play so you can play it for free, but there is a commercial version available as well. My Review.
You might also like: For alternatives, Descent Journeys in the dark remains a solo favorite. If you’re looking for a massive Dungeon Crawler with an original theme, Middara might be a better choice for you.
27. Architects of the West kingdom
Architects of the West Kingdom is a medieval worker placement and city building game. This is a multiplayer game where you compete for the most victory points, but it has a solo mode that’s getting a lot of praises.
You might also like: Another app-driven game you might enjoy is Destinies. If you like the idea of an adventure where you progressively discover a map, Tainted Grail might be for you.
Maquis is a worker placement game that has a very well integrated theme of playing as resistance members during World War 2. Your workers in this game are actual resistants and can get captured. The missions are exciting, they involve blowing up trains and the like, but man is it hard. Oh, also the game is originally print and play and can be played for free. My review of Maquis here.
You might also like: If you like the resistance theme of Maquis, you might also enjoy Resist, and for a similar theme but very different gameplay, Pavlov’s house might be for you.
23. Final girl
Final girl was my favorite game last year. You play as a horror movie girl who has to escape from, then ultimately destroy, a killer inspired by movies such as Nightmare on Elm Street. It has a good balance of luck and strategy in my opinion. My Review.
You might also like: If the gameplay of final girl attracts you but the horror movie theme is not for you, its predecessor Hostage Negotiator, and its campaign mode have been a great staple of solo gaming.
22. Sentinels of the Multiverse
I’m including Sentinels of the multiverse in this list because it is a staple of solo board gaming. But if I can be perfectly honest, I feel the digital version of this game is vastly superior, doing the bean counting for you with all the abilities that can interact in late game. This is a boss battler where your super heroes have to defeat a super villain and his minions.
You might also like: If you’re looking for some other Super Hero card game, you might want to have a look a Marvel Champions or Legendary Marvel. Or if you’re looking for a boss battler, Aeon’s End might be better suited for you.
21. Arkham Horror The Card Game
Look, there’s no surprise here, most of Fantasy Flight’s LCGs are in this list. Arkham Horror is a great deck construction game with very thematic Lovecraftian campaigns. Losing can feel a bit random sometimes, but wow this game is great.
Heat Pedal to the Metal has been the revelation of 2022, and would probably be the best game of 2023, if it didn’t come out in December 2022. The solo mode is also great, and there aren’t that many racing games to begin with, so this game really fills a void for solo gamers.
You might also like: For another racing game in a different setting, you might want to try Flamme Rouge and its solo variant, by the same designer as Heat.
19. Race for the Galaxy
Race for the Galaxy is one of the rare Victory points I personally enjoy. It is a tableau building game with a sci-fi theme, and one of the aspects I like about the Solo bot is that it plays differently depending on its starting planet. The solo expansion recently came back in print so it’s the right time to give this one a try as a solo gamer. My SOLO Review.
This is a multiplayer cooperative game in which you fight some bad guys and their minions. At the core it’s a deck building game, with a lot of game in the base box already, and lots of expansions to go with it.
In Burncycle you’re playing as a team of robots who have to take down an evil corporation by sneaking into their headquarters and shut down their systems. Burncycle is a stealth puzzle at its core, with great production value.
You might also like: If you like Burncycle, other games by Chip Theory such as Too Many bones or Cloudspire might be for you
15. Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes is one of these old games that still holds nowadays. It’s a true detective game, in which you have to go over newspapers, ask questions around the city, find the right clues to solve the questions asked at the end of each scenario.
The 7th continent was originally a Kickstarter that now has a retail version. It’s a game that took a fresh take on the “choose your own adventure” books and plays as a survival sandbox on a map. A given scenario can take up to 10 hours, but you can save your progress at any point. Really a unique adventure game.
You might also like: If you get tired of the 7th continent, Sleeping Gods might be a better choice for you as far as sandbox games go. Or if you like the idea of dying brutally on an island, give a try to Robinson Crusoe.
Cartographers is a pretty laid back roll and write, in which you have to draw a map, with specific constraints to earn more points. It feels a bit like a tetris puzzle, except you actually have time to think. It is a points game at the end of the day, but really relaxing for solo games. My review here.
Mage Knight is a strategy and adventure game that plays really great solo, in particular since sessions can be very long. You explore a map, build an army, and conquer cities. It combines elements of RPG and deck-building, and has been one of the top solo board games for almost a decade.
Scythe is an economic/military conquest game, but at the core, it’s a medium weight worker placement. I really like the variable player powers in this game. The AI for solo games is very good, but it plays with different rules than a regular player, so that’s one thing that might put you off.
Robinson Crusoe is a survival and resource management cooperative game which plays great solo. It has multiple scenarios, and I won’t lie, it’s a very brutal game, you’ll lose more often than you’d like. If you’re up to the challenge it can be a very rewarding game.
Under Falling skies has been one of my favorite games for a long time. This is a worker placement game where dice are your workers. you have to build your base and research technology before Aliens reach Earth. The games are short and intense.
Imperium classics is a civilization game where the goal is to advance your civilization and get victory points. Similarly to Race for the Galaxy, the Solo bot behaves differently depending on its own civilization, which gives the game a lot of replay value.
You might also like: You can try instead Imperium Legends (which is compatible with classics)
5. Aeon’s end
Aeon’s End is a boss battler which relies on interesting deck building mechanisms. You play as a powerful mage with special abilities, that your deck will help you trigger, to damage the boss and its minions.
You might also like: If you like Aeon’s End, give a try of course to War Eternal , or to its legacy version which is also not bad (Note: I’m personally not a huge fan of the legacy version, because you start with basically no powers, and the whole thing feels like a tutorial).
Does Gloomhaven need to be introduced at this point? Although this tactical dungeon crawler plays best with 2 or 3 players, it’s definitely ok to play solo.
You might also like: If you like Gloomhaven you’ll of course want to give a try to Jaws of the Lion and Frosthaven. Yeah it’s pretty much the same game, but nothing really compare to Gloomhaven’s gameplay.
3. Marvel Champions
Marvel Champions is another LCG by Fantasy flight. In each scenario you play as Marvel heroes trying to defeat a villain. If you do not have Marvel fatigue by now, it’s a very thematic card game with a lot of expansions.
Sprawlopolis feels like playing a short round of Sim City. You have to build a city by trying to match some constraints to maximize your points. I’m amazed at how many various goals they managed to cram into only 18 cards, and you’ll constantly want to come back for more. Sprawlopolis can be played multiplayer as far as I know, but it’s definitely made for solo. My Review of Sprawlopolis.
You might also like: If you like Sprawlopolis, other solo games by button shy like Skulls of Sedlec, Rove, or Food Chain Island might be right for you.
1. Spirit Island
Last but not least in this list of essential games for Solo players, Spirit Island. It’s a crunchy puzzle in which as a spirit, you have to defend your Island against invaders, using your powers. The spirits you can play really have different abilities that lead to very different strategies.