Board gamers of the world, do you ever feel like playing a game all by yourself?
Maybe you enjoy challenging yourself with puzzles and thought exercises, or maybe you relish a peaceful night all to yourself while doing a fun activity, or maybe you’ve got that one friend who just cannot arrive anywhere on time to save their life…
Whatever your reasons, playing a single player board game is a perfectly valid pursuit.
You could always get that deck of cards out and play some hands of solitaire, but for a more creative and immersive experience here are 9 great single player board games you can heck out.
And, of course, we include a recommended drink to enjoy with each game.
The game Friday is specifically designed for a single player.
You are put into the part of a Robinson Crusoe-type figure and the object of the game is to escape your desert island by fighting wild creatures, surmounting three rounds of jungle hazards, and then defeating the pirates barring your way to the freedom of the sea.
The game itself is played by building a hand of cards, which plays and feels similar to Solitaire, yet there are clearly defined goals and obstacles to overcome, which also allows for great re-playability as you can try to beat your previous score, or try different tactics.
Pros: quick to play and easy to learn, colorful, doesn’t take up lots of space, depth of strategy
Cons: ONLY single player, there is some math to keep track of and you might want a pencil & paper handy
Recommended drink while playing: Mai Tai
When speaking of Mage Knight, people throw around the term “best fantasy board game ever” regardless of it being a single player board game or multi-player game.
The game puts you in control of a powerful hero called a Mage Knight (surprise!) and you get to explore and adventure across a fully immersive Atlantean Empire while founding cities, raising armies, collecting magic items, learning spells, and fighting monsters – all great tropes of any fantasy board game.
Mage Knight combines several different game mechanics as there are figurines to control, decks of cards to build, dice to roll, and characters to advance.
Yes, there is a lot to do, but that also means you’ll never ever play the same way twice.
Although initially designed and playable with single players in mind, there is an expansion to this game to make solo play easier, Lost Legion, which provides for a dummy opponent and new scenarios for you to face.
Honorable mention goes to the game Gloomhaven right here, but Gloomhaven doesn’t make the cut because it contains even more of everything compared to Mage Knight.
Also, Gloomhaven is a much better campaign experience playing several games over time, and Mage Knight can be satisfactorily played in a single session.
Pros: Huge variations in play, complete fantasy setting, rewarding character progression, comes with painted miniatures
Cons: Takes up a ton of space, lots of things to keep track of, takes a long time to play
Recommended drink while playing: glass of red wine (by the time you’re done, it might be the whole bottle!)
We’ve all had that dream of being lost somewhere unfamiliar, right?
In the game Onirim you play as a Dreamwalker trying to escape their own labyrinth-like dream by finding eight door cards that will lead you to being awake and win the game.
Onirim is simple in design, most of the gameplay is card drawing and discarding with you looking to place down trios of the same color to earn a door card. There are nightmare cards you must face, which will steal the cards from your hand, and there are dead-end cards that stall your progress.
The cards themselves are colorful and bright, depicting the myriad dreamscapes of your mind, and a single session can be quick.
Pros: Unique, bright, colorful, and attractive, option to play with two players
Cons: Special rules are not on the cards and require you to go back to the rulebook, very abstract if that is not your thing
Recommended drink while playing: Irish Coffee
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
Those familiar with your local boardgame seller will know Fantasy Flight Games, often just by looking at the box, and The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is one of their fantastic products.
This game puts you in control of some of your favorite legendary characters from Middle-Earth as you fight monsters and endure quests to stop the evil forces of Mordor.
Playing the game requires you to make tactical decisions and multi-task as you face different scenarios that might involve fighting a specific enemy, locating a lost artifact, or exploring a fantastic location.
Fantasy Flight publishes many similar style games, which are called Living Card Games. This means you can expand the story and collect more cards from expansion packs to get new scenarios, characters, monsters, etc., but that’s not required.
If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings and single player board games, this is a no-brainer.
If you’re not a fan of the franchise, this is still a great introduction with amazing artwork on the cards and a challenging resource-management kind of game experience.
Pros: Multi-player is co-operative, iconic setting with wide audience, top quality game design & amazing art
Cons: Living-Card-Game with many expansions (which add up quickly), random cards can be deadly to you in early turns
Recommended drink while playing: A pint of your favorite Lager
The game Terraforming Mars is exactly what it says it is, you control a 25th century corporation working to advance civilization and move humanity to the fourth rock from the sun.
Bid on and complete huge undertakings like building aquifers, introducing animal breeding programs, importing water from the moons of Jupiter, and so on.
The game ends when the planet’s temperature has been raised to 8 degrees Celcius, oxygen levels are pushed to 14%, and 9 oceans have been placed on the planet.
A cute part of this game is that each turn represents a generation, which puts a unique perspective on your progress, plus also Mars enthusiasts will note that the game board is an accurate map of Mars. Terraforming Mars ends up looking like a sci-fi Settlers of Catan, but its gameplay is very unique and well-researched.
Pros: Feels scientifically accurate (verging on educational), re-playable, concise in its design
Cons: comes with lots of little pieces, most of the cards are flimsy
Recommended drink while playing: Campari & soda
Forbidden Island is a co-operational race against time as you try to plunder a sinking island of its treasures before the waves claim the land and they are lost forever.
The game is played by laying the island’s location tiles out in a random order, and several tiles sink randomly each turn. Players will then travel around the island in pursuit of its treasures, and can also raise adjacent sunken tiles on their turn.
Each treasure can be gained from two different locations, but if both locations go under the waves, that treasure is lost.
For single players and multi-player play, the game provides for an adjustment to the difficulty level in case you find yourself sinking with the island game after game.
The art on the tiles is great, and this game is appropriate to all ages, and all levels of play.
Pros: Quick & easy to grasp (hard to master), beautiful card & tile art, good for 1-4 players
Cons: tiles sink randomly so it could always end up being a quick (losing) game
Recommended drink while playing: Dole Whip with Rum
Scythe is the hot new game of building mech robots in a dystopian post-World War One world.
Much like Mage Knight, you will be doing many different things during Scythe like moving pieces around the board, taking territories, building up resources, and producing new mechanical engines to further your faction’s goals.
The game designers put a single player mode into the game, called Automata, which makes the game about taking territory, whereas the multi-player version of this game is about gaining economic power in the form of coins, or victory points.
This is a game funded by Kickstarter and blew right through all of its goals to become a massive hit, and comes with amazing and original art, tokens, figures, and cards which will attract your eye.
Pros: Looks amazing, can be played with 1-5 players, lots of replay value
Cons: Takes up a ton of space and has many, many small pieces, harder to learn to play than most games
Recommended drink while playing: Dark and Stormy with lime
The game Pandemic pits you as a CDC specialist against the spread of four virulent plagues sweeping the globe.
Your objective in the game is to build a research station, create a cure, then race across the board to treat the infected areas and eradicate the disease.
The game works well with multiple players in a cooperating force, but also allows for a single, well-organized individual to try and tackle the contagions as they spread.
The outbreak mechanic is really strong, and by the end of the game you’ll be pouring Purell over everything you own, but this is a fun and relatively fast-paced game.
Pros: Easy to learn, all rules and actions are stated very clearly on cards, fun for 1-4 players
Cons: Diseases can spiral out of control quickly through random cards
Recommended drink while playing: who cares what you’re drinking, just make sure the glass is clean!
Want to play a game as if you were in the The Walking Dead?
Zombicide, as its name suggests, is about fighting the undead in post-apocalyptic world.
You control a character that can move around the board, search for supplies, fight a zombie with a chainsaw, and throw Molotov cocktails at zombies, whichever your pleasure.
You can play solo, or with up to 6 players.
The game does some nice things like adjust zombie behavior for actions that create noise like when you fire a gun or break down a door with an axe, but the main focus of the game is really on the action.
The player characters level up as the game progresses, but so too does the difficulty of the missions and by the end of the night you might be outnumbered twenty to one (at least).
If you want to play a game that’s all about rolling tons of dice and kicking zombie tail, this is the game for you.
Pros: Tons of zombie killing opportunities, comes with excellent figurines, many expansions
Cons: Can be a tough game to win depending on the scenario, can take up to 3+ hours to play, not much narrative
Recommended drink while playing: A Zombie! (call Lyft to get home, please)
Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger
If you’re a fan of the Choose Your Own Adventure genre, here comes a solo board game adventure that allows you to do the same.
Much like the book series, this game sets a narrative, then has you make the decisions when a choices need to be made, such as: open the mysterious book (or don’t), grab that weapon in case you need it later, or follow the mysterious stranger through the door glowing with light… and see where the story takes you!
There is a lot of reading, so don’t play in a dark place, but the game itself is calm and rewarding – even when you “lose” a challenge, there are few dire consequences.
Pros: Based on a book series and follows the idea of them to a “T”, fun narrative
Cons: Lots of cards with nothing but text, (strangely enough) the replay value of this game is limited, 2-player mode not that fun
Recommended drink while playing: A tasting flight of beers or wines
There you have it, solo players, these single player board games are so much fun that you will not need a group of players to organize in order to play them. But please play responsibly!