September 25, 2019
20 Best Solo Board Games for a Relaxed Friday Evening

Let me set the scene…

It’s a cold Friday evening, ten years from now. The rain has started to trickle down, with pitter-patters resonating throughout your home. You’ve just got out of a steaming, relaxing hot bath and have made yourself a decadent and luxurious hot chocolate.

Now, what to do? Fed up with playing computer games, you fancy a fun one-player board game to sink your teeth into. So, you decide to order a solo board game through Amazon’s new Prime Instant Delivery. But which one to buy? Read on through my top 20 best solo board games, and I’m sure you’ll find one or two you fancy.

20 Best Solo Board Games in 2019

Our Top 3 Choices

Get It Best For Full Review

Imperial Settlers
Check Price Card game fans Read Our Review

Gloomhaven
Check Price Fantasy board game fans Read Our Review

The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth
Check Price First-time players Read Our Review

1. Imperial Settlers

Gametime45-90 minutes
Difficulty5/10
Ages10+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsAmazons, Atlanteans, Aztecs; Empire Packs: Why Can’t We Be Friends, 3 Is A Magic Number, We Didn’t Start The Fire
Our rating9/10

Summary & Gameplay

Take control of one of four major civilizations to secure new land and build a glorious empire in one of the best solo board games available to buy. A basic card building game played over 5 rounds, during which players will need to instruct workers, construct buildings, trade resources, conquer enemies, and ultimately, score victory points.

What’s to like

  • Many varied expansions

What’s not to like

  • Seasoned tabletop gamers may not find this game as challenging as others

2. Gloomhaven

Gametime30-120 minutes
Difficulty8/10
Ages14+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsForgotten Circles
Our rating9/10

Summary & Gameplay

Fantasy solo board gamers rejoice, the holy grail has been discovered. A near-perfect solo board game that has the player in the role of a wandering adventurer. You must – using your own set of unique skills – clear old ruins and gloomy dungeons while enhancing your abilities.

This is a world in which your decisions directly influence the path of the story. After a short game, you will understand why this is one of the best 1 player board games around at the moment.

A game that is set in a constantly changing world, players should tackle this over multiple sessions. Following a scenario, players will make decisions of what to do next, which will determine the course of the story.

What’s to like

  • Everything – from the player freedom in a shifting landscape, to the manageable gametime

What’s not to like

  • Nothing

3. The Lord Of The Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth

Gametime60+ minutes
Difficulty6/10
Ages14+
Extra requirementsInternet enabled device (tablet, laptop, computer etc.)
ExpansionsVillains of Eriador
Our rating8.5/10

Summary & Gameplay

Here we have an app-supported solo strategy board game that sees you embark on a journey with your fellowship, from the mysterious Grey Mountains to the great city of Gondor. Choose one of six roles, each with their own special set of skills, which you’ll need when being face to face with an army of Orcs or a diabolical Troll.

What’s to like

  • Easy to pick up rules and instructions, so first timers are not daunted

What’s not to like

  • The supported app sometimes takes away rather than add to the overall gameplay

4. First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet

Gametime60-90 minutes
Difficulty7.5/10
Ages10+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsSmartphone, accompanying app
Our rating8.5/10

Summary & Gameplay

This popular game is based on the uber-successful Robinson Crusoe solo board game by the same makers. It bridges the gap between tabletop and console gamers.

Players must survive the hostile Martian landscape, playing either a campaign mode of open-world, navigating through various challenges and tasks all the while, or using the integrated smartphone app to maintain balance throughout the game.

What’s to like

  • The immersive experience using the integrated app

What’s not to like

  • No expansions for a great game

5. Scythe

Gametime115 minutes
Difficulty6/10
Ages14+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsInvaders From Afar, The Wind Gambit, The Rise Of Fenris
Our rating8.5/10

Summary & Gameplay

A good solo board game set in an alternate 1920s post-war Europe (Europa in the game), players take control of a fallen leader, trying to restore them to former glories. You do this by conquering territories, recruiting new comrades, and reaping resources.

Each player starts with a different resource (power, coins, combat skill, and popularity), a different starting location, and a hidden goal. There are no rounds or phases. Instead, Scythe uses a streamlined action-selection mechanism that makes for speedy gameplay.

What’s to like

  • Almost no elements of luck or chance play a part in the game

What’s not to like

  • Very little here, but if I’m being picky, the main narrative is a little hollow and one-dimensional
  • boardgames review 6 Best Strategy Board Games You Need to Be Playing - This is a detailed review of 6 of the best strategy board games on the market: Scythe, Terraforming Mars, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Ticket to Ride: Europe, 7 Wonders Duel, and Carcassonne. We look at parameters such as competitiveness, complexity, learning curve, luck, host advantage, and more.

6. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murder and Other Cases

Gametime60-120 minutes
Difficulty6.5/10
Ages12+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsNone
Our rating8/10

Summary & Gameplay

The most famous detective in the world needs help. Can you be the person to assist? In the fog blanketed streets of Victorian London, a murderer is on the loose, and you must tread those cobbled streets looking for clues. Every action affects the outcome of a case in this fun one-player board game.

This is not your typical board game: No dice, no luck, but a challenge to your mental ability. Each game revolves around a casebook, which contains information you’ll discover as you play.

You’ll start by reading an introductory scene that describes a horrible crime or mind-bending mystery, and then it’s up to you to investigate. Each casebook is divided into scenes featuring different encounters, like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

What’s to like

  • It has been thoroughly researched for Holmesian and Victorian accuracy so as to capture the feeling of the era

What’s not to like

  • The replayability – once you’ve solved the case, unless you have an awful memory, you can’t play it again

7. Zombiecide

Gametime20-180 minutes (depending on which difficulty you choose)
Difficulty9/10
Ages14+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsToxic City Mall, Angry Neighbours
Our rating8/10

Summary & Gameplay

This probably isn’t one of the best solo board games to play alone, take it from me! The dead have risen and have infested the streets. Alone, you must survive, while trying to level up, and also while crushing any zombies in your path.

This game is marketed as a collaborative game, yet it boasts a challenging solo mode in which the player controls all the survivors – something to sink your teeth into. Oh, sorry, wrong choice of words…happy solo board gaming!

What’s to like

  • It comes with zombie miniatures as part of the gameplay

What’s not to like

  • Having to move said zombie miniatures around the board every turn

8. Friday

Gametime30 minutes
Difficulty6/10
Ages13+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsNone
Our rating8/10

Summary & Gameplay

This is a card stacking game based on the novel Robinson Crusoe. Here you play as Friday, helping Robinson Crusoe (represented in the game as a card stack of different behaviors) survive on the island through every fight and hazard.

During your turn, you must defeat a hazard by playing a fight card from your deck. If you defeat the hazard, it becomes a fight card and joins your deck. If you do not defeat the hazard, you lose life tokens.

You must improve Crusoe’s behaviors and skills so he can defeat the deadly pirates. One of the best solo board games around at the moment.

What’s to like

  • The length of the gametime

What’s not to like

  • The difficulty could be more challenging

9. Unsolved Case Files: Harmony Ashcroft

Gametime2-4 hours
Difficulty9/10
Ages14+
Extra requirementsInternet-enabled device (tablet, laptop, computer, etc.)
ExpansionsUnsolved Case Files: Julia Banks, Unsolved Case Files: Max Cahil
Our rating8/10

Summary & Gameplay

Who among us can say that taking on the role of a detective and solving a cold case isn’t on our bucket list? Well, in this game you get do live out that fantasy. Using over 50 photos and evidence documents, players must solve 3 puzzles to crack the case. You can input your answers online to see whether you are correct. If you are, you will progress to the next part. A great solo strategy board game.

What’s to like

  • The whole thing felt authentic and really tested my detective prowess

What’s not to like

  • Replayability (although there are expansions)

10. Eldritch Horror

Gametime2-4 hours
Difficulty7.5/10
Ages14+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsForsaken Lore, The Mountains of Madness, The Dreamlands, Under The Pyramids, Strange Remnants, Masks of Nyarlathotep, Cities In Ruin, Signs Of Carcosa
Our rating8/10

Summary & Gameplay

Inspired by the great horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, and from the same creators that brought you the popular tabletop game Arkham Horror, comes one of the best solo board games. Players take on the role of a globetrotting investigator, working to solve mysteries, gather clues, and protect Earth from an Ancient One – an elder hell-bent on destroying our world.

Each Ancient one comes with its own unique mystery and research card decks, which draws the player in deeper. Away from the main narrative, you have the encounter phase. You could build your character’s story by reading an encounter narrative from one of the encounter cards. If you fail an encounter, you may be issued with a condition card that signifies a specific injury or ailment.

What’s to like

  • Multiple expansions means you’ll never get tired of this franchise

What’s not to like

  • Gametime can become long, especially for beginners

11. Terraforming Mars

Gametime90-120 minutes
Difficulty7/10
Ages12+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsHellas & Elysium, Venus Next, Prelude, Colonies, Turmoil
Our rating8/10

Summary & Gameplay

Another contender for the title of the best solo board game, Terraforming Mars sees you playing as corporation tasked with terraforming the red planet.

Players acquire project cards from a pack of 200. These can represent projects such as introducing plant life or animals, hurling asteroids at the surface, building cities, mining the moons of the gas giant Jupiter, and establishing greenhouse gas industrialization to heat up the atmosphere of the red planet. These cards can also give you instant bonuses.

You must work through generations (what each turn is called) to bring Mars to life. With your expertise, plants and animals will propagate and colonize the planet. Just be careful of out-of-control asteroids.

What’s to like

  • The game board is an accurate map of the Martian surface, a nice added touch to the game

What’s not to like

  • The components of the game are a little plain

12. One Deck Dungeon

Gametime30-45 minutes (longer if you are learning)
Difficulty8/10 (on average. It depends what difficulty level you choose.)
Ages14+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsOne Deck Dungeon: Forest Of Shadows
Our rating8/10

Summary & Gameplay

As the name suggests, this is a card-based game. Players start with a character and must build them up as they traverse the dangerous dungeon. When you defeat a card, you claim it as either experience, an item, or a desired skill, placing it next to your character card to show its advantages.

Get far enough, and they will face the dungeon master, with the possibility of becoming a dungeon legend. A nice single-player board game to keep you busy.

What’s to like

  • The game’s simplicity

What’s not to like

  • Limited expansions

13. Hostage Negotiator

Gametime30 minutes
Difficulty5/10
Ages14+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsSold as card sets.Abductor pack 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and Demand Pack 1
Our rating7.5/10

Summary & Gameplay

We can see why this was the winner of the 2015 solitaire game of the year; it’s one of the best board games to play alone. It is a nice, fun, one player board game that turns sour when someone is taken hostage, which is where you come into play. With each turn represented as a conversation between you and the criminal, you must use cards and hope the dice gods are smiling on you.

What’s to like

  • Quick gameplay

What’s not to like

  • Relies heavily on luck using dice

14. Sylvion

Gametime30 minutes
Difficulty7/10
Ages10+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsCastellion, Onirim
Our rating7.5/10

Summary & Gameplay

Now comes one of the best board games for single players who love card games. A card-based game set in the ever-expanding Oniverse that’s easy to learn, yet tricky to master. Players must defend their forest against wave after wave of attacks from fire-monsters by playing animal cards or by manipulating the enemy decks.

Beware though, even if you defeat all the fire monsters and put out all the fires, if even a small part of your forest is burnt, you lose! The variational playability is a big draw that will keep players entertained for years.

What’s to like

  • The game is short and sweet

What’s not to like

  • The story and overall premise is more suitable for children

15. NMBR 9

Gametime20 minutes
Difficulty7/10
Ages8+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsNone
Our rating7/10

Summary & Gameplay

A different kind of solo board game here, and a stern test of your mental acumen. NMBR 9 is a tile stacking game that sees players try to score points by building the best stack. Cards are drawn from a pack and indicate what number tile to stack. But beware; it’s not as easy as it seems.

What’s to like

  • The mental test that it provides

What’s not to like

  • The game can be a bit convoluted for first-timer players

16. This War of Mine

Gametime45-120 minutes
Difficulty8.5/10
Ages18+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsNone
Our rating7/10

Summary & Gameplay

An adaptation of the popular computer game, and inspired by the 1992 Sarajevo conflicts, this one sees you take on the role of a civilian in a war-torn country. Your only objective is to survive. You will have to make decisions that will affect the course of the game, and ultimately your survival.

Your nighttime duties consist of guarding your shelter and what few possessions you can accumulate against bandits and raiders. Those in your group fit for such a task will explore dozens of the ever-changing locations throughout the dangerous city in search of all the things one needs to survive (materials, food, meds, equipment, etc.).

On your way, you will meet many different characters, each with a unique story (residents of the locations you visit, thieves, bandits, soldiers, war victims, refugees, neighbors, traders, and members of local communities). Each encounter is a potentially unique adventure, so each game will be different than the one before.

Our only entry on the list that is a single-player board game for adults only.

What’s to like

  • Different encounters provide unique adventures

What’s not to like

  • The subject matter is not suitable for many younger players

17. Mage Knight

Gametime2+ hours
Difficulty8/10
Ages14+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsLost Legion, Krang
Our rating7/10

Summary & Gameplay

This award-winning solo board game sees you taking on the eponymous role in an epic explorative quest. Build armies; destroy armies. Conquer cities; destroy cities. All in the name of the mysterious Void Council. You control your reputation as well; are you a generous leader or a barbaric dictator?

Gather your army and fill your deck with powerful spells and actions in this award-winning solo board game that combines elements of RPGs, deck-building, and traditional board games.

What’s to like

  • Fantasy gaming is always a win, so practically everything

What’s not to like

  • Gametime is rather long at 4 hours max

18. Star Wars: Outer Rim

Gametime2-3 hours
Difficulty6/10
Ages14+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsNone
Our rating7/10

Summary & Gameplay

In a galaxy far far away… comes a solo board game like no other. You can choose one of eight of Star Wars’ most iconic scoundrels, from Han Solo to Boba Fett.

Players must, over a series of turns, take on dangerous jobs, hunt bounties, and upgrade their ship, among other things. In this all-new Star Wars story, you must smuggle, steal, and barter your way across the galaxy to forge your legacy. This is a fantastic solo strategy board game.

The goal of the game is to reach 10 fame, which you can achieve by completing your character’s personal journey, delivering illegal cargo, collecting on bounties, and other nefarious jobs.

What’s to like

  • Are you kidding, it’s Star Wars…we like almost everything!

What’s not to like

  • The length of the gametime

19. Viticulture: Essential Edition

Gametime45-90 minutes
Difficulty6/10
Ages13+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsTuscany, Visit from the Rhine Valley, Moor Visitors
Our rating6.5/10

Summary & Gameplay

Here, in one of the best single-player board games, the player takes on the role of the owner of a rustic vineyard in pre-modern Tuscany. You have to improve your land, prospects, and overall wealth by hiring workers throughout the seasons. But beware, only certain workers can do certain jobs in certain seasons.

Players allocate their workers to best suit their vineyard, as well as assigning certain tasks to visitors (just make sure they have a worker to help them). Ultimately, using your workers and visitors, you can grow your vineyard by building structures, planting new vines (in the form of cards), and fulfilling wine orders (again, in the form of cards).

What’s to like

  • Multiple expansions

What’s not to like

  • The game can become a little monotonous and tedious

20. Castle Panic

Gametime60 minutes
Difficulty4/10
Ages10+
Extra requirementsNone
ExpansionsEngines of War, The Dark Titan, and The Wizard’s Tower
Our rating6/10

Summary & Gameplay

It’s up to you to defend your castle from a menagerie of monsters and have it standing at the end to win. Cards are traded, monsters are slayed, and intricate strategies are devised, all to keep the castle intact. This is an excellent game for people who want to get back into one player board games with easily customizable difficulties. It can be enjoyed equally as a solo player board game or as a co-op.

What’s to like

  • The customizable difficulties, so you can adapt the game to your skills

What’s not to like

  • Although you can play it as a single player, it is best enjoyed as a co-operative game.

Conclusion

There you have it: 20 of the best solo board games available today. Nearly all of them can be played with multiple players as well, and will provide a lot of fun Friday nights.

My favourite has got to be the last entry, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. As a big-time Sherlock Holmes fan, being able to step into that world brings out the Conan-Doyle fanboy in me.

Are there any best solo board games I missed? Which one is your favourite? Let me know in the comments, and happy gaming!

Phil Knopp

Contributor

From Skywalkers to superheroes; from a Gunslinger to Gollum; From a time travelling police box to a time travelling delorean, my obsession with everything fantastical and geeky began when I was around 6, aboard the USS Enterprise, with Captain Jean-Luc Picard at the helm.

Now, being 6 seems like a lifetime ago, and a lot has changed in my life but my love for all things geeky remains a constant.

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