Top Solo Board Games: Where Should You Get Started?

There's a reason why "solo mode" is being tacked onto games: it sells. One of the biggest complaints board gamers have is that they can't get together enough players for a game. If you've tried to organize an event recently, you know: people are flaky and difficult to manage. So why not just play games alone?

There are hundreds of games with a solo mode, but not all of these games are good at being played solo. Here's what you need to know to get started in the world of solo board games. 

Why Does Playing Solo Board Games Sound Crazy?

People play video games alone all the time, but to many, the idea of playing a board game solo is completely foreign. Perhaps it's just because there really haven't been many solo board games historically -- from chess to tic-tac-toe, many older games were built for two players. Board games have often been a matching of wits with another person; they've often been competitive or designed as an excuse to socialize. 

A board game, built into 3D space, is often built so that people can interact over a table. This is compared to say, a mobile game, which is naturally insular. Thus there's the clash: it seems strange to bother with a 3D device that is meant primarily for interaction. But the best solo games take advantage of 3D space to augment the game itself, rather than as merely a foil for social interaction. You obviously won't be able to play social deductiong games without a group -- but there are many other games out there for you to try. 

What Are Some of the Best Solo Board Games?

  • Clank! In! Space!. A deck-building adventure from Renegade Game Studios, Clank! In! Space! (apart from having frustrating punctuation) is a 2 to 4 player game. However, a solo campaign mode has been released through the app. 
  • Arkham Horror: The Card Game. Get a little eldritch with Arkham Horror, a game of "arcane mystery and supernatural terror" that is designed for 1 or 2 players. This living card game, with roleplaying elements, puts players in the role of investigators. 
  • Spirit Island. In this "anti Catan," you play vengeful spirits attempting to protect your homeland from the usurpers. Spirit Island can be played with 1 to 4 players, though you do miss out on some of the more exciting cooperative synergies. 
  • Mage Knight. Mage Knight includes 240 cards, 4 painted miniatures, and a whole bunch of tokens, with 2+ hours of play for 1 to 4 players. Incorporating RPGs, deck-building, and other board game mechanics, Mage Knight lets you build power while destroying others. 
  • Gloomhaven. Look: if you bought Gloomhaven, nothing's going to stop you from playing it, including not having anyone else around. For 1 to 4 players, this big box game lets youp lay out lengthy, strategic combats.
  • One Deck Dungeon. If you can actually figure out how to play One Deck Dungeon from its manual, it's a fun role-playing inspired card game for 1 to 2 players. Playable in 30 minutes, One Deck Dungeon can also be expanded to add additional players. 
  • Onirim. Onirim is a popular game and the only one that I don't know anything about, which is astonishing since it'ss apparently a 1 to 2 player game with a whopping seven expansions. Onirim is a labyrinth game in which players must struggle to find their way out. 

Those seven games are some of the most popular and highly rated solo games available -- if you want to try your hand at it, that's where you want to get started. If you find yourself really enjoying solo games, there are games designed to be only solo, and quite lengthy ones at that (such as Nemo's War).