Everyone loves a good game night with friends, but there’s nothing more satisfying than a one-person game night when you’re enjoying some quiet time at home. Far from dull or lonely, the best solo board games provide all the challenge and excitement of a multiplayer board game — minus the other players, of course. That means you get to play what you want when you want it — at your own pace, without social niceties or conflicts.
Most solo board games are designed to be played with a friend or few, but offer the option for solitary play with some alterations. This makes these games a great way to practice gameplay on your own before trying them with others. As with any games, solo board games have a suggested age range, so make sure any intended players are old enough. You’ll also want to think about how long you’d like to play, as some games take a few minutes (or less) to play, while others can take hours.
Many people like their games simple and easy to set up, with just a deck of cards or a few game pieces. Plenty of others don’t mind taking the time to lay out a variety of boards, tokens, cards, and tiles. If you have the patience for a complicated setup, go for it — but if not, try to steer clear of anything with too many moving parts. Beyond the physical pieces of a game, you’ll also want to think about your preferred type of play. Do you like intensive strategy, or creating a storyline? Do you want to play against the game, or against yourself? Do you prefer to play the same scenario over and over, or would you like to mix things up with expansion options? If you’re not sure, think about which games you've enjoyed in the past, and take it from there.
Regardless of your gaming needs, these incredible solo board games are sure to provide you with hours of fun — and you can play them all by yourself.
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1. For True Board Game Fans: Mage Knight
Players: 1-4, aged 14+
Duration: 1-4 hours
If you like RPGs, deck building games, or traditional board games, you’ll be happy to know that Mage Knight has elements of all three. You play as a mage knight entering a land that is threatened by evil. In each round of the game, you explore an epic world, crawling dungeons, gaining fame, building armies, and conquering your enemies. The board game is extremely elaborate (240 cards, 196 tokens, and 20 map tiles are just some of the pieces that make up the game), which means it might be a little intimidating for beginners — but if you’re someone who frequently hosts game nights, Mage Knight offers hours and hours of unique and intellectual gameplay. And once you get really good at playing by yourself, you can even try pitting yourself against up to three friends.
Mage Knight has lots of replay value, but if you really want to mix things up, grab the ultimate edition for the base game plus three expansions.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "This is an awesome and deep board game that incorporates many different elements such as deck building, modular tiles, exploration, and random luck due to some dice throwing. Like a very fine wine it needs to be appreciated for the many layers of depth and complexity but because of this it works very well as a solitaire or two-person game. [...] It is my favorite board game of all time only when I get play it solo because like good wine I can enjoy it at my pace."
2. For People Who Like A Shorter Game: Onirim
Players: 1-2, aged 10+
Duration: 15 minutes
If you like board games but only have 15 minutes to spare, Onirim’s your best bet. In the game, you use a series of cards to navigate the labyrinth of a dream, searching for an exit. To escape the labyrinth, you must find all eight doors before you run out of cards. But beware of Nightmare cards, which can thwart your efforts! With beautifully illustrated cards and seven expansion packs to add complexity and variety to gameplay, Onirim is a joy to play by yourself — but you can play cooperatively with another player if you’d like.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "Literally cannot just play one game. [...] I have to play one game after another for hours. Buy it. If you master the base game quickly like I did the expansions will add depth and a fun challenge. Can't get enough of it."
3. For Anyone Who Loves Catan: Scythe
Players: 1-5, aged 14+
Duration: 115 minutes
Set in a bleak steampunk version of 1920s Eastern Europe, Scythe is like an edgier version of Catan. You play as a fallen leader attempting to restore your people to glory during a period of unrest — opposed by a rival represented by a deck of cards that essentially allows the game to play against you. You attempt to conquer territories, gather resources, and gain popularity, but your ultimate goal is to have more coins than your rival by the time one of you has completed six achievements in the game. This solo system is called “Automa” and can be set up for different levels of difficulty, but you can also play the game in groups of up to five players.
Scythe truly is a great solo game for anyone who enjoys the game mechanics of Catan but would like to be able to play alone or shake things up a bit. Like Catan, Scythe is an engine-building game, where players set up systems that continually produce resources. But in Scythe, basically everything you do, from building structures, employing recruits, and conquering land generates resources, money, and influence.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "Easily one of the best board games on the market. It plays somewhat similar to Settlers of Catan, but it's perfected the economy system and added in much needed combat. The game separates itself from other due to its intensely strategic nature. Every turn matters. Will you move or get wood? Better choose wisely because you will otherwise regret it in the end!"
4. For RPG Enthusiasts: One Deck Dungeon
Players: 1-2, aged 14+
Duration: 30-45 minutes
What if you could play Dungeons & Dragons by yourself, minus the role-playing, and still enjoy it? That’s essentially the concept of One Deck Dungeon, in which you explore a dungeon with a character you build up from scratch. As you make your way through the deck of cards, you’ll encounter enemies and other dangers to overcome, gaining experience points, items, or skills when you’re victorious. The difficulty scales up quickly and Amazon users report that it’s fun but difficult to beat. If your character survives for long enough, you’ll eventually have to fight a dragon. You can also play standalone games, or use the "campaign" feature to grow your character's skills and abilities over time as you play game after game.
Unlike many other games, One Deck Dungeon really is just one deck and some six-sided dice, which minimizes the amount of setup time it requires. You can play alone or with one friend, though it’s possible for more than two people to play if you purchase additional decks.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "This is an excellent dungeon crawl, solo game. There are rules for playing with two players (or even three or four), but this game really shines as a single player game. There is a nice blend of luck and strategy, and I found that I thought I was going to die horribly over and over in each game. . . only to eventually triumph by the faintest of margins. This type of nail-biting close call is abundant when playing ODD and a really nice treat for a gamer. I wasn't sure what to expect when I bought this game, but I was pleasantly surprised by the depth that the game offers in a very small box with some basic components."
5. For Word Game Aficionados: Boggle Reinvention
Players: 1+, aged 8+
Duration: 90 seconds per round
Boggle is a classic for a reason: it’s straightforward, challenging, and legitimately fun. This version is a slight upgrade on the original: the letter tiles are attached to the game, as is the built-in electronic timer, which means it's more portable than ever and you'll never lose a tile again. Other than that, it's the same old Boggle in which you attempt to find as many words on the grid as you possibly can before the timer finishes. Players compete against one another in a multiplayer game, but you can play solo and simply attempt to beat your high score.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "Boggle is a really fun and mind challenging game. [...] This one is nice because you can't lose any pieces and it has a BUILT IN timer that beeps when time is up! (Much better than having to watch the hourglass one.) If you want a travel version, I would highly recommend this one over any other. [...] I highly recommend this one!"
6. For Strategic Thinkers: Terraforming Mars
Duration: 120 minutes
Terraforming Mars is a game set in the future. You play as a corporation working to make Mars habitable for humans by raising the oxygen level, temperature, and ocean coverage. As the game progresses, you acquire the resources you need to accomplish these goals, collect income, fund projects, and advance human infrastructure throughout the solar system.
During gameplay, you acquire project cards that allow you to build cities, introduce plant life, or establish greenhouse gas industries to heat up the atmosphere. As you transform the planet, you place tiles to represent oceans, forests, and more. Playing solo, you’re tasked with successfully terraforming Mars in 14 rounds, but if you lose, it’s no hardship to try again — with more than 230 cards, you’ll find no shortage of unique projects to tackle. And if you really want to mix things up, you can invite up to four friends to play with you.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "This is one of the best games I have ever played. It combines strategy with resource management in the most fabulous way! I also love playing it over and over as the game changes each time. I also enjoy the solo version."
7. For True Solo Gamers: Friday
Players: 1, aged 13+
Duration: 25 minutes
Unlike the other games on this list, Friday is designed only as a solo game. That's right, it's not a multiplayer game with a solo play mode, it's just a one player game. That's how you know that a) you're playing the best (and only) version of the game when you're by yourself, and b) you never have to share it with anyone else. Ah, the joys of solitude!
In this deck building adventure, you play as a man named Friday. When Robinson Crusoe finds himself shipwrecked on your deserted island, you must help him survive the hazards of the island and fight murderous pirates. Life on the island is hard, and Crusoe's abilities change over time as he ages and encounters new dangers. You win when he defeats the pirates and is able to leave the island — but although the game is fairly simple, Amazon reviewers report that it's very difficult to win. They also report that the challenge keeps them coming back for more.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "Love, love, love this game. Fantastic solo play game. I really enjoy trying lots of different strategies to see how they turn out. [...] Lots of different options with different types of pirates to fight at the end (if you survive that long) which affect your early game strategy on the type of deck you want/need to build to beat those final pirates. Just a great game. [...] If you love solo games, this is a no-brainer. Buy it!"